KAPAA — Wong’s Traveling Petting Zoo plans to soon re-open, but with a facelift.
The zoo, which was based on Christy and Keola Wong’s rental property in Kapaa, closed in 2014 after their landlord sold their house.
“We lost everything,” Christy Wong said. “So we decided we were going to take a break, and we were able to find homes for all of our animals.”
But the phone calls didn’t stop, she said.
“There’s a need for the services we provided,” she said.
Wong’s Petting Zoo, which opened in 2012, offered pony rides, farm visits, pet adoptions, rescues and pet therapy. It also offered summer camps for children to come to the farm and learn basic husbandry skills.
Now, Wong hopes to re-open as Kauai Animal Education Center on a 25-acre piece of land.
First and foremost, KAEC is an animal rescue that will house about 20 species of animals, from chickens, ducks and quails to horses, sheep and donkeys.
“We’re not worried about cats and dogs; there’s enough shelters for them,” Wong said.
Wong also plans to extend her services by providing a no-kill shelter and offering petting zoo tours. Other plans for the land include gardens, an aviary, koi pond, fresh and salt water aquariums and a terrarium.
Five acres of KAEC will be designated for an animal hospital and surgical center.
“Pigs need to get sewed up, and horses are lame because the stirrup needs to be taken out, but there’s no surgical center on the island for large animals,” Wong said.
She plans on living on the property with her family, who will serve as caretakers of the land.
Wong also hopes to provide Kauai Community Correctional Center inmates with an opportunity to get outside and learn new life skills.
The price tag for expansion is $1.5 million, which Wong hopes will be done through fundraising. While an exact location hasn’t been set, she hopes to acquire land on the eastside, and is reaching out to private landowners.
Until then, Adam Asquith, founder of Kealia Farms, hopes to partner with Wong.
“We’re mostly a taro and vegetable farm, but we’re trying to expand our activities,” he said. “I want to develop a small petting zoo, so I’m trying to entice her to take her animals here. It takes an enormous effort to run a petting zoo, and she knows how to do it.”
If things fall into place, Wong can be up and running by August.
When they open, the family plans to continue taking their animals to carnivals, birthday parties and other special events, Wong said.
Wong’s Traveling Petting Zoo started as a way for Wong’s family to become more sustainable and conscious about their food.
When people got wind of what they were doing, they started giving animals to the Wongs.
She estimates they had 200 animals on one acre of land.
“We started taking in animals, and when people found out what we were doing, they started giving us their guinea pigs, chickens and other animals, which wasn’t what I was expecting,” Wong said.
Wong’s sister-in-law suggested they bring the animals to a party and host a petting zoo. It was so successful that Wong said she started researching how to run a petting zoo that night.
The most rewarding part of the zoo is watching people connect with an animal, Wong said.
“I had this one kid, who was at a massive party, he was there with this tortoise, and was just mesmerized. He didn’t move for two hours. And that’s not an isolated incident,” she said. “I can’t describe it. I don’t know what we do, but being able to provide that, it’s a good feeling.”