Little Ponderosa is a safe destination right now — and it needs you

Clinton’s Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue is in a crisis.

The zoo desperately needs donations of meat, grass hay and money to help feed the nearly 900 animals housed at the facility on Granite Road, founder and director James Cox said Tuesday.

The zoo normally gets up to 300 pounds of out-of-date meat each week from Walmart stores in Clinton and Oak Ridge, but it received only 12 pounds last week because of the run on grocery stores by people reacting to the coronavirus news.

“We want stuff that’s no longer good for humans, even freezer-burned meat,” Cox said. “Old stuff is fine. We don’t want people to think we want the best stuff so they have to go without so we can feed our [big] cats.”

The zoo also desperately needs monetary donations to be able to buy food, as the facility’s usual source of revenue – admission fees paid by visitors – has dried up.

“We’re not seeing any visitors at all,” Cox said. “Yet we remain one of the safest places you can go during a situation like this. Our animals are in outdoor displays, and no one is even allowed inside our building. We have it set up so you can enter the zoo down the outside of the building without ever coming in.

“People can bring their kids for a safe outdoors activity and practice social distancing by staying away from others while visiting,” he said. Government advice recommends outdoor activities in open areas during the coronavirus crisis, he noted.

But without the fees the zoo collects from patrons, there isn’t enough money to feed the animals, and if the situation continues, Little Ponderosa could be forced to close, perhaps forever, Cox warns.

Monetary donations can be made online at the zoo’s website,, Cox said.

On the zoo’s Facebook page Monday, Cox posted this notice:

“Consider donating your extra meat from your freezer to the Zoo and Rescue. Our grocers are running short so our donations from them are drastically reduced so Gunther and Gebel are asking for your help! Please Share! Thank you as always and we hope you and your families are safe and healthy during these trying times.”

Cox also posted that a farmer friend of the zoo from Middle Tennessee came Monday to deliver a load of donated hay to feed the animals.

The post read:

“Little Ponderosa wants to send out a huge thank you to John Harney who donated and delivered a huge load of hay. We have grown close to John through our years of working with World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, TN, and John knew that times were getting difficult with our food supply here at Little Ponderosa.

“But James thinks there was another message from the Creator to be delivered by John of encouragement. John said, ‘James, we must turn this fear into faith.’ We unloaded the hay, ate lunch together, then John headed back to Murfreesboro. Thank you John!”

The Little Ponderosa, which is still recovering from a disastrous fire two years ago, remains open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Regular admission prices are $15 plus tax for ages 18-64; and $10 for juniors (3-17) and seniors (65-plus). Children under 3 are admitted free.

Buckets of feed are available for purchase for zoo visitors to give to many of the resident animals.