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Asbury Foundation Gives $277,000 to Hattiesburg Zoo Project

Hattiesburg - The Hattiesburg Convention Commission announced today that the Hattiesburg Zoo will be the recipient of a $277,000 grant from the Asbury Foundation for work on the highly anticipated new zoo education building. This new building will be called the Asbury Discovery Center and will be unveiled in April of 2014.


“The Asbury Foundation’s financial gift to open this special facility inside the Hattiesburg Zoo is a huge step forward in our efforts to make the Zoo one of Mississippi’s most enjoyed attractions,” said Rick Taylor, Executive Director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission. “Community support is vital in our efforts to grow the Zoo. The Asbury Foundation’s gift makes it possible for our education animals to be seen at the Zoo when they are not out at area schools or camps. The Asbury Foundation’s commitment to education aligns perfectly with the mission of the Hattiesburg Zoo. As our largest donor to date, we are encouraged by the Foundation’s investment in our children, our zoo, and our community.”


Established in 1984, the Asbury Foundation is a private grant-making organization that strengthens education and health in the Pine Belt and throughout Mississippi. When the Methodist Hospital and Wesley Health System was sold in 1997, $35 million was invested in the Asbury Foundation as the surviving not-for-profit corporation. The funds being contributed to the Hattiesburg Zoo are generated from the earnings on the invested assets that are the product of the sale of Wesley Health System.


“The Discovery Center will bring a new level of interactive learning to the children of Hattiesburg and the zoo’s visitors of all ages.” said Ray. “The Hattiesburg Zoo is a source of pride in our community and the Discovery Center will be a living classroom that promotes learning through fun. The Asbury Foundation is committed to improving and enhancing educational opportunities in the Pine Belt region, and this project falls directly in line with the Foundation’s mission and vision.”


The Asbury Discovery Center will be unveiled to the public in April 2014 as part of the Zoo’s annual Birthday Bash celebrations. The 2,200 square-foot facility will offer a one-of-a-kind educational experience for guests of the Hattiesburg Zoo. This state-of-the-art facility will feature viewable housing for the Zoo’s education animals, viewable offices and laboratories for Zookeepers, a new home and play yard for the Zoo’s Galapagos Tortoises, and a venue for zoo classes, camps, special events and even, corporate meetings.

“The Zoo’s Education Department and its activities are continually growing,” said Taylor. “The new Asbury Discovery Center is designed to excite the curiosity of children who come to the Zoo, as they will be able to see some behind-the-scenes Zoo operations first-hand. The space will also allow our guests to view the entire collection of education animals which have previously not been on public exhibit due to a lack of space.”


The overall look and feel of the Discovery Center is the result of collaborations between the Hattiesburg Zoo and Because We Can, a design firm in Oakland, California who specializes in the unique design style known as “Steampunk,” which celebrates the early 20th century age of discovery and innovation in a futuristic whimsical style.


The Hattiesburg Zoo is a Hattiesburg Convention Commission Facility, in partnership with the City of Hattiesburg and the Hattiesburg Tourism Commission. Since 1991, the Hattiesburg Convention Commission has been developing and operating tourism-related facilities for the Hattiesburg area. For more information, visit or contact us at 601.268.3220.