Founder of Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park Presented with Prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award!!
Congratulations to Mickey Ollson, owner and founder of Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park for winning the Zoological Association of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award! This award is the highest ZAA honor for professional excellence, and contributions to the zoo industry. The award recognizes the improvements made to the craft of zookeeping and zoo management by an individual!
Mickey Ollson's story is truly amazing. He opened Wildlife World Zoo nearly 40 years ago, but he was only a child some 70 years ago when he subconsciously made plans for it. He was just a little boy and he had a dream that one day he would open his own zoo. "I had chicken pox, so I couldn't go to school for a couple weeks," said Ollson. To pass the time, he drew a map of his future zoo. Ollson said his desire to one day start a zoo began with a couple of ducks, a gift from his grandfather who lived next door to him when he was growing up, on land where he planned to someday build his Wildlife World Zoo.
But the zoo would have to wait as Ollson at first chose a different career path. He graduated from ASU and became a teacher. During his teaching career, though, his love for animals never waned and in fact continued to grow. "I was raising exotic birds for other zoos and other collections, and in the early 80's, with the growth of the west valley, we decided to go ahead and open a zoo here." So in his mid-40's, Ollson retired from teaching and took a chance to fulfill his dream, opening his own zoo. Wildlife World Zoo had been open a few years when he came across the map he drew when he was a little boy sick in bed, and it was amazingly close to what he actually built! It had been laminated by his mother, and he found it in her belongings after she passed away.
Now, Ollson is on site everyday, checking in with all the keepers and the animals, proud of all that's been accomplished. Never in his wildest dreams did Ollson think his childhood vision would become a reality, or that it would grow into Arizona’s largest Exotic animal collection, a 100 acre zoo that houses 6,000 animals.
Mickey’s childhood calling has led to numerous industry firsts in the zoological community. Some of these contributions include the first zoo to have a public exotic bird feeding, and the first zoo to have overhead jaguar viewing! If he knew then what he knows now, Ollson says he wouldn't change a thing, because it all came together just as he hoped when he was a little boy, dreaming, and drawing a map.