The GuZoo Animal Farm was founded on the principle of public education. In the beginning animals were collected and acquired to provide a place in which children and adults alike could gather to see, observe and when possible, touch many different species of animals and birds. The objective was to further an individuals experience with animals. The owner, Lynn Gustafson, was highly aware that in most environments where animals and people were brought together for educational purposes all the senses were addressed except what he felt was the most important one, touch.
Touch is the first sense to develop in the human infant and the sense that is undeniably fundamental to the healthy physical and emotional development of a human being. The need to touch things is apparent especially in toddlers, where they can’t help but get their hands on everything and anything they can reach. Seeing is not believing in the world of a child. They want to touch it!
Mr. Gustafson had six children and was keenly aware of a child’s need for touch. He invited kindergarten school children to his working farm to see and touch the milking cows, laying hens and pigs he raised. The Gustafson children had many animal hobbies of their own ranging from a collection of exotic pigeons and pheasants to getting involved in 4-H with their own milking cows. The Gustafson children were encouraged to share their animals and their experience with their friends and school mates. This became the foundation that eventually built the GuZoo Animal Farm.
When the GuZoo opened in 1990, the primary purpose of such an establishment was to offer the public something that very few other facilities would offer… the opportunity to touch exotic animals. Mr. Gustafson feels that there is no better way for people to further their respect for animals than to know and understand them intimately. Feeling the soft feet of a raccoon helps to understand why they use their “hands” to feel for their food. Experiencing just how strong a four week old tiger cub is gives people an understanding of just how powerful an adult must be. When a person holds a baby lion for the first time a light illuminates within that individual (it is almost perceivable) that sparks a respect and love for God’s creatures. Knowledge and understanding nurtures appreciation and respect. This in turn, erodes fear and ignorance. After all, we are raising the Earth’s future caretakers. How better to instill an importance to maintain these animals than to offer children the opportunity to engage with God’s creatures in a safe and gentle environment.
Making a Dream Come True.
How many of you can say you made someone’s dream come true? Well, Mr. Gustafson can. He understands people’s love for animals and he recognized the fact that the world is deficient in catering in full to nurture that love. On nearly a weekly basis, Mr. Gustafson can honestly say he made someone’s dream come true. Many, many people have told him it has been their dream to touch a tiger or lion, or deer, or bear. Mr. Gustafson’s heart soars at the opportunity to fulfill that dream for others. Taking time out of his daily routine, time away from his family, he will even miss a meal if he feels he can offer a little extra to an animal lover. He even invites strangers into his home to help bottle feed the evening meal to the infant tiger cub who finds warmth and love on the floor in his kitchen.
This is the reason the GuZoo exists, for the people. Mr. Gustafson’s fondness of children and people and his love for animals allows him to offer remarkable experiences to fellow human beings who would otherwise never have occasion to touch a tiger (or bear, or deer, or cougar).