Mickey Ollson, the founder of Wildlife World Zoo was born to run a zoo. Growing up in a home with unconventional animals, his father and grandfather raised everything from chickens to koi. He studied business with a journalism minor at Arizona State University and spent time working as a disc jockey on the college radio station. After graduation, he taught junior high for 20 years, but he never lost his love for animals.
He raised and sold exotic birds, and as his collection grew; he bought several acres of land at 83rd and Northern Avenues. He added a variety of animals such as zebras and wallabies to his collection and started attending zoo conferences. When he outgrew that property, he recalled that "Friends were telling me I had more animals and birds than most zoos and I was crazy for teaching school. I should have a zoo," He used the money he made by selling birds to the Walt Disney Resort’s Discovery Island, to purchase 30 acres in a remote part of the West Valley for his breeding operation in 1973, which would eventually become Wildlife World Zoo when he opened to the public in 1984.
Mickey literally built the zoo from the ground up. Helping with construction, planting trees, and installing plumbing. If he couldn’t afford contractors, he would do it himself or ask friends to help. Always looking forward to growing and improving the zoo, Mickey added an indoor aquarium with sharks, alligators, and stingrays in 2009.
In 2016, he opened the zoo’s $4 million expansion with a Mexican restaurant and rides that include a rollercoaster and other amusement rides. Wildlife World was truly a labor of love, and Mickey was on site every day overseeing the daily operation of the zoo until he sadly lost his short but brave battle with cancer in January 2022. His family continues his legacy by embracing his vision and looking toward the future by continuing to make improvements throughout the 100-acre property.
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