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AZA honors Brevard Zoo with Significant Achievement Award for "Paws On" exhibit

Photo: Brevard Zoo

Melbourne, Florida, USA—Brevard Zoo received a 2011 Significant Achievement Award for its Paws On exhibit at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) annual conference September 16 in Atlanta, Georgia. This award recognizes excellence in the area of live animal display and exhibit design by an AZA Institution (US or International) or Related Facility member. This is the first exhibit award for Brevard Zoo.

“Brevard Zoo is creating leading edge zoological exhibits,” said AZA president and CEO Jim Maddy. “This award recognizes Brevard Zoo’s innovation and dedication to the best in animal care and public education.”

The Paws On project was designed by zoo staff working with several local firms including Susan Hall Landscape Architecture, Inc., CAG Architects, Construction Engineering Group, Encore Creations, and Indian River Concepts. Out of state firms included TJP Engineering and Hannah Jennings Design.

Paws On was one of the first exhibits completed when the zoo opened in 1994. Thirteen years later, the exhibit was in need of a renovation. The vision was to encourage families to get outside and discover the many natural wonders offered in Brevard County. The $2.5 million project received funding from major contributors including Harris Corporation, the Tourist Development Council, and St. Johns River Water Management District, as well as many individual donors through a capital campaign led by campaign co-chairs Jim and Jonnie Swann and Mike and Mary Louise Coleman.

According to Keith Winsten, Brevard Zoo executive director, “This award is an incredible validation of the zoo’s commitment to innovative and effective exhibit design and of the support we get from throughout the community. According to our research, we are the smallest institution to ever receive this award and one of just a handful that have achieved this success without using professional zoo architects. We relied heavily on the design talent found in Brevard County.”

Paws On reopened in February 2009 featuring four main sections:

  • Indian River Play Lagoon – Families can splash around in a play lagoon right alongside a 20,000 gallon aquarium that features animals found in the Indian River Lagoon. The aquarium houses a variety of plants, fish, and other sea creatures such as snook, red fish, trout, and sting ray.
  • Upland Acre – Children can get physical building their own animal homes near the Gopher Tortoise Inn, where they can climb on top to the scrub jay nest, check out the puppet theatre, paint faces, and use the rope climber.
  • Seaside Cove and Sea Turtle Beach – On the beach, children can step on a kid-size shrimp boat and go hook-less fishing, slide down the right whale, discover sea turtle tracks, and pretend to be a nesting sea turtle.  
  • Paws On Petting Zone – Families can enjoy the new contact yard, featuring a brand new barn, three paddocks, and animals such as armadillos, pygmy goats, emu, and alpacas.


Wildlife Detective Training Academy
This 1,800 square foot, indoor play space opened in August 2007 and allows children to practice caring for plush patients in a pretend vet lab and solve animal mysteries involving real animal artifacts. In addition, there are about 40 animals on exhibit including mammals, snakes, lizards, tortoises, amphibians, and invertebrates.

A 2009-2010 study by the University of Florida School of Forest Resources and Conservation documented the positive effects this exhibit has on children and their connections to nature.

Brevard Zoo is home to more than 550 animals representing over 165 species from Florida, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The zoo features many extraordinary animal experiences including giraffe and lorikeet feedings, kayak and paddle boating tours, and a train ride. Brevard Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is a non-profit 501c3 organization.

Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, publicist, strategist, blogger, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She excels at writing about all aspects of design and technical design, production and project management. Areas of special interest include AV integration and show control, lighting design and acoustics, specialty cinema, digital video and world’s fairs. Judith has ties to numerous industry organizations. From 2005-2020 she ran communications, publications and social media for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA, and co-chair of the 2014 IMERSA Summit. She was publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association in the 1990s, now part of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) and has also contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Already making her mark as a magazine and book editor, Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. Launching as a freelancer in the mid 1990s she has contributed to dozens of publications and media outlets including Funworld, Lighting&Sound America, Sound & Communications, Urban Land, The Raconteur and The Planetarian. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. She has lived in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, and now makes her home in Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts and theater community.

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