When I was looking for something unique to do in Myrtle Beach, Waccatee Zoo came up, and I thought, what the heck? I’ll go check it out. I was in Myrtle Beach researching topics for my freelance writing job, and this zoo seemed to fit what I was looking for. Plugging the address into GPS was essential as there weren’t many signs pointing me in the right direction. When I turned into the dirt road lane, I wasn’t sure that I found it. However, there was a large fenced-in area to the right with buffalo and deer roaming in it. There were a few cars in the parking lot, and I knew I found it when I saw the sign over the wood building serving as the gift shop and entrance.
Walking into the building, you are bombarded with birds squawking. After paying the $12 cost to enter and an additional $6 for a large bag of food to feed the animals, you head out to follow the trails designated for you to see all the animals. The interesting thing is that the same food is used to feed all the animals, which doesn't seem exactly right in the long run.
The first group of animals that you come across are the goats and they are so appreciative of the food so much so that the little ones were pushing their heads out of the fence to try to get the food from your hand. Feeding these little guys is probably the funniest part of this whole zoo. You are in stitches laughing so hard at their little tongues and mouths nibbling on the food kernels in your hand.
There are tons of peacocks around you making whoops and screams to the other peacocks roaming freely in the zoo. The peacocks are everywhere, outside of the zoo by the cars, walking on the dirt paths in the zoo, and even perched atop some of the goat cages. I really enjoyed trying to get the perfect photos of the peacocks with their feathers all spread out on display.
Once you get further into the zoo, the feel of the zoo changes. The animals seem more desperate for attention and for the food, they know that visitors bring. There are some empty cages, but even worse is the rundown feel you get walking through this zoo. There are so many things that need fixing including cleaning up some of the animal enclosures, trees fell within and on animal enclosures and they are just left there. I’m not sure if they just don’t have enough workers to help clean up the zoo or they don’t care.
The animals in the back seem to have some room to roam, but they do look a little lean. I kept trying to feed the littlest ones, but the bigger ones would push their way toward me. So, I ended up throwing the food over the fence further out to spread out the animals.
The birds nesting area was neat to see although you are a bit away from the birds. It was cool to see them fly around. However, some of the boards on the pathway over the water seemed to be suspect. It would be nice for them to shore them up.
The worst area came toward the end of the trails. Seeing the monkeys in the small enclosures, and the black bear pacing back and forth in his small enclosure was heartbreaking. When animals are swaying back and forth, you know that there is something wrong. And the monkeys I saw whether they were old or not, looked unhealthy to me (in my frequent zoo visitor opinion). I have been to accredited zoos where the monkeys and animals have plenty of room to swing and move around and they seem happy. These guys didn’t.
What seemed like a fun petting zoo up front, turned into what looks like a disheartening sad case of animal neglect. Do I know that for a fact? No, but seeing animals in a smaller enclosure than they should be in is not right. These bigger animals, like bears, lions, monkeys, and tigers need space to roam and not be locked in little cages. With all of the space on this complex, they could easily build bigger and better homes for these animals.
When I got home, I debated about putting the Wacatee Zoo in an article for unique things to do, however, I ended up deciding against it. I did some more research about the history of this zoo and previous animals (Lila the tiger and Chico the Chimpanzee) that have unfortunately died there and their battle with PETA. I wish I had known more about this place before I went and maybe I would have avoided it.
Everything happens for a reason and I believe my visit is to help get the word out about the safety and health of animals. And if you want to see animals, look for zoos that maintain as much a natural habitat for them as they can and make a concerted effort to keep the animals healthy and happy. Animals are not meant to be in tiny cages. They need space to fly and move. As for me, this was a huge lesson to be learned on researching a place well before and making sure I can stand behind places that I recommend.
Have you ever been to Waccatee Zoo before? What did you think?