HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — If you’re a fan of animals, specifically ones that slither and have scales, a new development may be coming to Huntington that’s right up your alley, which is expanding on a rescue effort already underway.
Andy McKee is a former middle school science teacher whose penchant for rescuing reptiles and amphibians and extensive knowledge of herpetology led to a reptile rescue in the Jewel City. He is the founder and CEO of Mountain State Reptile Rescue.
“I started Mountain State Reptile Rescue with the intention of still teaching and doing this on the side as kind of a weekend project or something to help, and it just grew and grew and grew until finally, I had to have a storefront, and this is my first year out of the classroom,” McKee says.
Mountain State Reptile Rescue currently boasts around 46 rescues, but McKee has bigger plans for the Tri-State.
“It’s not really a new venture, it’s just an expansion of what we’re already doing, and it’s ultimately to save more animals,” McKee says. “It’ll actually be called the Huntington Reptile House and Aquarium. It’s gonna be a full-scale reptile house that will house hundreds of reptiles and amphibians from all over the world.”
This project to build a zoo will also feature an aquarium with marine life from all over the world.
McKee says this reptile house and aquarium project could show visitors and even longtime residents what this area really has to offer.
“It is truly going to be an educational, scientific facility. And the property we’re trying to get right now has more than 55 acres,” McKee says.
That property would be in Wayne County—but still in city limits—and is the first phase of McKee’s four-to-five-year plan to get the zoo up and running.
However, he’s asking for the community’s help to pass the first hurdle: raising $850,000 dollars in the next 60 days.
“We want our community, my community, to feel like…they have ownership of this,” McKee says.
People in the community tell 13 News they think folks in the area would be onboard.
“I think a lot of people have a misconception about reptiles, and I think that something like that being around here would be great,” says Huntington resident Charles Shepard.
The funds raised would go towards purchasing the property.
While the zoo may well take four to five years to fully come to fruition, McKee has some short-term goals coming down the pike as well: “While we’re doing that, we’ve outgrown our location here. We’re gonna move, we’re looking to move to a higher traffic location that has better parking, more square footage, and we’re essentially gonna build a scaled-down version of what we are building there as the reptile house.”
The whole zoo is estimated to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $20,000,000.
For more information about Huntington Reptile House and Aquarium, visit their Facebook Page here.