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This place is a “zoo”

Up until this past Saturday, the last (and only) time I visited a zoo was in the early 1980’s.

That excursion consisted of accompanying my wife and mother-in-law to the North Carolina Zoo, south of Asheboro. I don’t recall the time of year, but it was a hot day. Due to my mother-in-law’s medical condition at the time, I pushed her in a wheelchair as we made our way across the rolling acres of the zoo.

Fast forward nearly 40 years. This past Saturday found me at a zoo once again. Again, it was a hot day; however, instead of expending my energy pushing a wheelchair, I was exhausted at the end of the tour chasing my four-year-old grandson.

“It’s a Zoo Life” is the brainchild of Bobbi Jo Abrams. She is the wife of Jerry Abrams, a son of the founder of Abrams Barbecue – a regional restaurant chain based in Pinetops with locations in Ahoskie and Windsor.

Bobbi Jo has been collecting exotic animals over the course of the past several years. While the zoo has been located in front of the family’s home on NC 42 just outside of Pinetops in Edgecombe County for a while, its popularity seems to be booming on the heels of a series shown on the TLC Network. “Our Wild Life” airs every Tuesday at 10 p.m. Check it out if you get a chance.

If you’ve seen the show and visited the zoo, it’s extremely apparent that Bobbi Jo’s love for all types of animals isn’t some sort of “made for TV” melodrama. She’s as down-home and “country” in person as on the show. She spent a good half-hour chatting with us (and others on the tour) after we had completed our rounds. Bobbi Jo even posed for a photo, accompanied by her seven-year-old son Jaxon, with my grandson and my daughter. Danielle was treated to the opportunity to hold (and chat with) “Coco” – a cockatoo that is among the furry celebrities on the TV show.

And it’s true that Bobbi Jo initially nurtures some of the animals inside the family’s spacious home. That includes her raising baby kangaroos, to include toting them around in a fake pouch for roughly seven months and feeding them from a bottle.

Outside in the sprawling, fenced-in zoo are a wide variety of other animals not typically seen in eastern ‘Carolina. Sure, there are some rabbits, pigs, sheep, and chickens, but the zoo is also home to a zebra, a camel, a Longhorn Watusi (with horns weighing over 1,000 pounds each), a sloth, a wolf, Patagonian cavy, porcupines, lemur, wallaby, tortoises, alpacas, hedgehogs, ferrets, sugar gliders, and mini horses.

What makes it even more interesting is that visitors are allowed to follow the tour guides into the habitats of these animals. In some cases, the guests are highly encouraged to reach out and pet these exotic animals.

The tour guides we had on Saturday were very pleasant and engaging. They shared facts about the animals, informed us of their native environments, the care each requires, and even told some funny stories about their daily encounters with these wild creatures.

The two guides both fell in love with my grandson, Brody. They, along with I, could see the look of amazement in his four-year-old eyes and he asked what seemed like a million questions. They took their time with him and answered all of his innocent inquiries, and even let him feed some of the animals.

I highly recommend this zoo if you’re looking for a great family-type atmosphere and learning environment. Plus it’s close-by (just a little over a one-hour drive to Pinetops).

Visits do require a guided tour, which are given by appointment only at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays. Admission is $20 per person (for ages 6 and over) and $10 for those ages 5 and under. The price is worth the drive and the hospitality you’ll receive.

You need to call for reservations (252-266-7974). Bobbi Jo said weekdays during the summer months are busy as they host groups conducting field trips. Plus, the zoo is closed to the public from June 18-21 to conduct their annual camp for children.

 

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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