Behind the Business: Twin Falls Zoological Center

Thanks to southern Idaho’s newest non-profit animal sanctuary, animals are back in the mall…. for all the best reasons.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 10:23 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Unless you grew up in the 80′s and 90′s, the idea of animals at the mall might seem like a strange concept to you. Or it just might bring up visions of puppy mills and the smell of wet sawdust.

But thanks to southern Idaho’s newest non-profit animal sanctuary, animals are back in the mall…. for all the best reasons.

“The idea of animals in the mall… I totally understand the possible negative connotations that could come with that. People picture like a truck stop with a tiger type of thing,” said Twin Falls Zoo Executive Director Josh Dowding.

But this is not that type of thing, and it’s also not hamsters, mice, and goldfish. Instead, is a refuge for some amazingly unique animals, with the majority being rare reptiles.

It’s called the Twin Falls Zoological Center.

“We didn’t want to call ourselves Twin Falls Reptile Zoo or anything like that, so were Twin Falls Zoological Center, Twin Falls Zoo for short. We have over 56 exhibits, over 150 animals from birds, alligators, we have a porcupine and we’ve got quite a bit for people to see and interact with,” said Dowding.

The Twin Falls Zoo first opened their doors in early September, but this project has been in the works for years. And finding a location was the first hurdle.

“Being a non-profit, we were relying on donations to be able to get there. We were looking for a building that would either be donated to us, or the owner would allow us to waive the lease or mortgage until we could get built,” said Dowding.

Dowding says the majority of those they spoke to thought it was an amazing idea, but giving up that much real estate did not make financial sense. Until the Magic Valley Mall was brought up.

“A colleague of ours suggested ‘hey, you should try the mall’ because they’re probably looking for something to bring people in and they’ve got a large commercial space. So, we sat, and we worked with the mall for nearly 6 or 7 months before we decided to move forward. Then we got a special use permit from the city of Twin Falls and then we started construction,” said Dowding.

That construction took almost two years to complete, but the final product speaks for itself.

“We’ve been open for three weeks and we’ve had nearly 4,000 people through the door. Every single one of them has been really impressed and really enjoyed it,” added Dowding.

While there are over 150 species of animal to enjoy and learn about, every show has a star, and at the Twin Falls Zoo that star is an alligator named levi.

“Alligators have really adequate visual senses, and they can hear really well, so we’ve been actually working with training him to come when he is called. So, when he’s up there on his deal and I call him… ‘Levi’ (Knock, Knock) … he comes right to us. So, we get to show the public that these animals are much more intelligent than we give them credit for,” said Dowding.

The Twin Falls Zoo is open 7 days a week and is located on the east-end of the Magic Valley Mall.

For the full is of admission pricing, including family passes, log onto their website at TwinFallsZoo.COM