Zoo acquires van for educational programs

Sep. 27—WATERTOWN — After six years, the Zoo Mobile is back on the road.

Zoo New York, located in Thompson Park, now has a used Ford Transport — adorned with flashy graphics — to transport and show off zoo animals to area schools and at events.

The zoo hasn't had a Zoo Mobile since around 2017, said Lawrence J. Sorel, the zoo's executive director.

"We've had to use staff and personal vehicles," he said.

Zoo animals are also being taken to the vet in the van, and zoo employees can use it to pick up supplies.

AmeriCU Credit Union is sponsoring the Zoo Mobile to cover its costs, Sorel said. The credit union is paying for the vehicle.

It allows the zoo's education department to go out in the community several times a week, he said.

"This gives us an actual Zoo Mobile to do this," he said.

AmeriCU supports the nonprofit's commitment to provide conservation, family-oriented programs and education to the public about wildlife, according to a press release.

The Zoo Mobile ensures the safe and humane transportation of animals to various locations, allowing them to engage with communities while maintaining their well-being.

"The Zoo Mobile will feature a carefully curated selection of captivating animals, engaging educational programs, and interactive experiences suitable for all ages," said Tim Greening, the zoo's director of marketing and development.

The used vehicle was purchased from Waite Toyota in the town of Watertown. The auto dealership was able to find the perfect vehicle for the zoo, Sorel said.

"They gave us a great deal," he said.

Waite Toyota also arranged and financed the graphics designed for the Zoo Mobile, he said.

The city owns the zoo's 32 acres — half of which are developed — and its buildings, while the Thompson Park Conservancy board operates the facility.

With exhibits of animals native to the state, Zoo New York provides knowledge and motivation to conserve nature through science-based natural and cultural experiences.

The zoo is now the second most-visited attraction in the Thousand Islands Region. It attracts nearly 50,000 visitors per year, is supported by more than 800 member households and reaches nearly 10,000 people through educational programs.