JR Wheeler Director of Roo Doo’s Wildlife Park in Greenwood continues to make progress at the 150 acre lot located off of Hwy. 71. Wheeler stated that he hopes to complete phase one of the park by 2019. The park is being built in four phases. Phase one of the project is an 80 acre area that will consist of parking and a 15,000 square foot educational center that will have several indoor habitats as well as an area for free educational services.
A large part of the initial phase will be for playground equipment. Wheeler stated that he has received grants to purchase the equipment that will be in the shape of zoo animals.
Wheeler stated that he is also preparing an area for carnivores animals such as lions, tigers, bears, wolves and hyenas as well as an “Old McDonald” petting zoo consisting of farm animals such as cows and goats.
There is also a three acres pond on the premises that will house an aviary.
JR stated that his hope is that the park will become known as a cheetah habitat. “We want to be known worldwide for our cheetahs.”
The park will also be home to an eight acre lake with a prairie area that will house American Bison. The lake will be up to 30 feet deep with catfish that can be fed as well as swans and alligators. Wheeler stated that once the aquatic feature is completed the construction of walking trails and perimeter fences will begin followed by the parking lot and the educational facility.
“One of the coolest things about our park is how natural it is going to be,” said Wheeler. “We want it to be where you don’t even realize that you are in a zoo. We want to get away from that gray concrete jungle and the nastiness that a lot of people associate with unnatural zoos. We want a natural habitat feel where you don’t even realize that the animal is behind an enclosure at all.”
The park will be more interactive and will allow visitors to feed animals such as giraffes. “A lot of parks are starting to go to that,” said Wheeler. “We are going to strive to be really interactive. It will be something that people of all ages can enjoy.”
Another interactive section will be the Australian area where patrons will be able to hand feed kangaroos and wallabees.
Other species at the zoo will include: penguins, otters, monkeys and lemurs. In fact Wheeler stated that the park will house over 300 species of animals when it is completed.
Wheeler and his father Jimmy Wheeler have been involved with zoos for many years. JR an ATU grad has worked alongside his dad on many an adventure transporting animals and building enclosures. JR has also worked as a private contractor for the Dept. of Defense as a trainer. Kristen Wheeler has a strong background in education being a grad of ATU as well as being a certified teacher for Mansfield Schools in the past.
“Roo Doo’s Wildlife Park will be a place where people can come see something different in this area,” Wheeler says. “It will bring more people to Greenwood. Everything has to start somewhere. The price will be equivalent to a movie ticket. This will be for the people and for educational purposes. Family fun for everyone to enjoy.”
Wheeler describes the scope of Roo Doo’s Wildlife Park as somewhere in between Little Rock Zoo and Tulsa Zoo.