Archie and Kathleen Futrell lived a life that is the dream of many animal lovers. The Futrells created and operated the homemade Waccatee Zoo in Socastee, Myrtle Beach.
Mr. Archie Futrell grew up on a farm, and Mrs. Kathleen Futrell majored in biology at the University of South Carolina. When they ran a concession stand at the Pavilion on the Grand Strand, they acquired the first of many animals, a lion cub who needed a permanent home.
More exotic animals found their way to the Futrells including a white tail deer and an ostrich, and eventually they decided to build a zoological farm. Since the couple owns more than 500 acres, there’s plenty of space for their menagerie. The 500-acre farm became a wildlife refuge as more animals found their way to Kathleen and Archie.
Archie started building the zoo on a small scale and kept expanding as they adopted more animals to live there. Originally, the Futrells wanted to provide a safe environment for their animals, but as word spread about the facility, school children wanted to come to see the animals. Archie and Kathleen made the decision to get certified and become a licensed zoo.
A Unique Attraction
What makes the park unique is that the 50-acre zoo is on privately owned land with viewing areas to enjoy all the animals. A pond on the farm formed by the Waccamaw River and Socastee Creek is where egrets, heron, turtles and alligators breed and raise their young. Visitors can view the animals from the wood bridge that crosses over the pond. Unpaved, winding trails through the woods lead to the habitats of the animals.
The Story of Princess – A Lion Who Raomed The Property
They began building safe structures for their animals in the woods in 1988. At that time, they had lions, an ostrich, a chimpanzee, a cougar, and several deer. Their lion whom they named Princess, was allowed to roam the property until she became too big, then had her unique home at the zoo where she and the zoo’s visitors would all be safe. Princess lived at the Waccatee Zoo until she died at the age of 14.
Keeping Species Alive
Currently, the zoo covers about 50 acres and is the habitat of more than 100 species of animals. The Futrells wanted to ensure that exotic species wouldn’t die out, so they periodically exchange animals with other exotic wildlife zoos. They want to ensure that their animals breed and keep the bloodlines going for generations.
Caring For Exotic Animals
Although the zoo has a down home atmosphere, the facility is equipped to handle whatever needs the animals have. The Futrell’s home is at the zoo entrance, so the animals get a lot of attention and the care they need 24 hours a day. They are part of an extensive network of animal handlers and veterinarians and have a large collection of books in their library on all aspects of caring for exotic animals.
How the Zoo Got Its Name
The name Waccatee Zoo gets its name from the Waccamaw River and the Socastee Creek. The Futrells wanted to create a home for their exotic animals unlike many of the large zoos around the country that feature enclosures that aren’t large enough for the animals to roam, with lots of concrete.
Learning About the Animals
The Waccatee Zoo has a tranquil atmosphere in a farm-setting, with nature trails that connect the various areas of the facility. The park is rustic, and the large property allows the animals to live out their lives in a natural habitat. The various viewing areas allow visitors to observe the daily routine of the animals. Although visitors are encouraged to come to the zoo to see and learn about the animals, they never have direct contact with them. During feeding times, the animals are in a different location when the handlers are in the pens.
The majority of the visitors to the zoo are groups from schools, but a lot of tourists visit the attraction. The monkeys are a favorite attraction. Another attraction at the zoo is the unusual Antique Market that’s a collection of Archie’s favorite items. The market includes vintage cars and stuffed animals.
The species of animals that make the Waccatee Zoo their home are:
Visitors to the zoo are encouraged to buy bags of feed to hand feed the animals. The monkeys and Patches the Llama especially love meeting and being fed by visitors. Patches lives toward the back of the park on the river trail.
What: Waccatee Zoological Farm
Where: 8500 Enterprise Rd, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
Cost: Admission to the Waccatee Zoo is $9 for each adult and children over the age of 13. The ticket price for children between the ages of one and 12 is $4. Children who are 11 months and under have free admission.