As you prepare your list of things to do this summer with the family, with the children, with friends or on a date, be sure to write down a visit or two to the Popcorn Park Zoo and Animal Refuge located in the section Forked River of Lacey Township.
There are over 200 animals and birds there, rescues cared for and cared for, and on another front – many events begin in the coming weeks as we head into summer.
John Bergmann, Director of Popcorn Park Zoo and Animal Sanctuary, and Danny Mendez, Director of Education at Popcorn Park Zoo and Animal Sanctuary, were guests yesterday morning on ‘Shore Time with Vin and Dave’, which airs every Sunday morning from 6-8am on 94.3ThePoint and 105.7TheHawk.
They also have all kinds of animals on site to see, pet, feed, learn more about and appreciate them better.
“It’s not a conventional zoo by any means, we get a phone call, and all of a sudden — 15-20 years ago someone called me and said ‘hey, we have a elephant we have a problem with, do you want an elephant?’ so you never know what’s going to be on the other side of that phone,” Bergmann said. “When we’re building things to accommodate animals or redoing areas to accommodate that animal, there’s really no rhyme or reason at this point. We don’t sit down and say ‘hey, we’re going to have new lions are coming and we are going to have a new exhibit and have two years to build this exhibit,” we are working very fast to save these animals.”
All of the animals there are rescues, Mendez explains, so they’re taking care of all of them, but they’re also providing a safe new home.
“That means the animals are also a bit more interactive with you because a lot of those animals are injured or have been poorly kept, a lot of them require medical attention and ongoing care in the facility – as a result, they interact with people more than a typical zoo animal and I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of coming to Popcorn Park Zoo,” Mendez said. “We’re a sanctuary, we’re the last chance for a lot of these animals, they had nowhere to go, a lot of them came to us near death and they’re grateful for that and you can see that they value human contact and they want that in many cases.”
We have unfortunately seen cases over the years on the Jersey Shore and throughout New Jersey where pets and animals are left in absolutely appalling conditions and grossly neglected by the people who are supposed to care for them.
In some cases, in this sense, animals are covered in filth or their own feces and urine, malnourished, sick, unvaccinated, etc.
When these animals have been through all of this, it can be hard for them to trust people because they are scared.
At the Popcorn Park Zoo and Animal Sanctuary, the on-site team helps restore some much-needed TLC (but not waterfall hunting) to their lives and provides a safe place to live and play. .
“Many years ago we took in two tigers – Dante and Gina – they were both from Texas and it was a tough case and all, but Dante the male – we had to put them to sleep, put them down from the truck, put them in a den – the next morning when he woke up, it was almost like he had been there his whole life, he was embarrassed and talking to us, and came straight to the door “Bergmann said. “Gina the female was right under the bench and stayed under the bench wouldn’t leave that bench and then if you turned your back on her she would grunt and walk out but only because you turned your back on her she. It went on for about a good month and it was a Sunday and I brought my wife with me that morning. I was cleaning up the dens and everything, she took the bucket and turned it over and went sat down and she brought a book and she was reading, and she was reading out loud and something triggered in Gina and (she) came out from under that bench and started huffing and it changed her whole life.”
For the care taken in treating the animals that come in, they receive expansive care from the veterinarians and staff on site.
When they eat, animals feed on all kinds of diets.
“We try to give them the best kind of diet possible. It varies, for example, our carnivores eat everything from ground meat to rodents, (and) fish – it really depends on the animals and their specific needs, but we do try to give them basically a very varied diet and of course, a healthy diet,” Mendez said.
There will be tours led by Mendez and some of the volunteers in the coming weeks and summer months, as well as special events at the Popcorn Park Zoo and Animal Sanctuary, including the “Festival of Lions, Tigers and beers” which is planned. for June 11 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. featuring food trucks, over 50 craft breweries, wineries, craft soda makers, 50/50 raffles, and more.
“We’re super excited about this event. Basically, you’re going to walk into the zoo and sample over 50 craft brews and wines, we’re going to have food trucks, snacks of all kinds and it’s just going to be a one really fun time to hang out in the zoo and taste some really good food and wine and enjoy the animals and most importantly it’s a fundraiser for us,” Mendez said. “We rely heavily on fundraising to feed our animals and proper care, so if you’re available on June 11, come have a great time.”
You can listen to the full conversation I and Dave Crossan had with John Bergmann and Danny Mendez here.
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