Hollywild Animal Park is committed to providing an interactive and enlightening experience for our visitors, as we continually improve the lives of our animals in an enriching and respectful environment.
The Meeks' family involvement with animals began in the 1940's on their farm in rural Spartanburg County. (In fact, the park is located on their original home-site, but includes the acquisition of a few surrounding properties). Their collection contained typical farm animals, such as goats, cows, chickens and horses. It soon grew to include South Carolina native species such as squirrels, opossums, foxes and raccoons. Early on, David Meeks, the youngest son in the family, showed an affinity for animals and a powerful talent to handle and understand them. "It just comes naturally to me," he said. "I can read an animal's body language with ease."
This talent and affinity led to a fortuitous event in college, when David's assigned roommate showed up with a monkey. After the monkey destroyed their dorm room, David made a deal with his roommate: Give me the monkey and I'll repair the room. The exchange was the first step, which led to the fulfillment of David's childhood dream of being able to work with animals from around the world. Steadily, species by species, the backyard menagerie grew. As more and more strangers were attracted to the yard, the Meeks decided to structure their property in a way for people to enjoy it.
In 1970, father and son opened the M & M Zoo, housing deer, swans, monkeys, capybaras, tigers, pheasants, lions, ducks, bears and otters. Donna (1967-2007), the Asian elephant, still one of the most beloved animals ever at Hollywild, also found her adoptive home in their back yard. It is not often one is called to adopt an elephant! But David and his wife, Lucia, had a larger vision for the project. They both knew such an extensive animal collection could and should serve a greater educational purpose. They purchased the elder Meeks's share and began building what would become Hollywild Animal Park in 1985. Neighbors and family were not the only ones who noticed David's animal-handling talents; Hollywood also took notice. To date, Meeks has provided animal talent for more than 65 feature films. Hollywild's animals have appeared in numerous national advertising campaigns, photo shoots, brochures, art exhibits, conferences, private parties and nativities. The hand-reared animals and David's expert handling make them adaptable to many environments, including movie sets.
David and his animals have appeared in films from Barbra Streisand's Prince of Tides and Tom Cruise's Days of Thunder. David worked on location in Utah filming Steven King's The Stand and on the Christmas movie Prancer. Pippi's spotted horse from The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking and one of the models for Disney's The Lion King are favorite residents at Hollywild. These projects have provided a solid financial backbone for the park for many years and led to the renaming of the zoo to Hollywild Animal Park to reflect the Hollywood connection.
Today, David's dream lives on with the help of many people. The Park's wildlife collection is comprised of over 500 animals from around the world. In 1999, Hollywild became a 501 (C) (3) Non-Profit Organization focused on fostering a love and appreciation for all living things. An energetic Board of Directors works hard to set direction, to overcome challenges and to achieve ambitious goals for this unique park. Hollywild is committed to providing an educational and entertaining experience for all who visit; from church groups to school classes to the general public. "Animal Parks are a work in progress," says Meeks. "Hollywild continues to grow and develop better habitats for the animals and better educational opportunities for the public."
Visit often to see the many great changes that are constantly taking place and relish the fruit of millions of hours of work and love. Enjoy the great opportunities for interacting with wildlife. Join the Friends of Hollywild today and become a regular at the park. Become a part of the dream. After all, this living place is also your backyard!
Hollywild Animal Park is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media