HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) – The Hattiesburg Zoo took a leap into the near future Friday, swapping some diesel muscle for elemental electric energy.
A bevy of administrators representing the City of Hattiesburg and Mississippi Power Company were joined by students from Hattiesburg’s Woodley Elementary and Petal Primary School to welcome the zoo’s new electric train.
“This electric train will add to the extraordinary experience that our visitors have at the Hattiesburg Zoo, while enhancing our commitment to reducing our environmental footprint,” said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which oversees and manages the zoo.
“As we looked to upgrade our much-loved diesel train, it was the natural next step to choose a green path forward, by selecting a fully electric, zero-emissions, clean energy train to transport our visitors around the Zoo.”
Taylor was joined at the zoo by Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker, Mississippi Power Northern Division manager Michael Harvey and Mississippi Power Vice President /Customer Service and Operations Tommy Murphy to cut the ribbon on the zoo’s latest addition.
The electric train, manufactured by Chance Rides in Wichita, Kan., took about four months to build.
The train’s primary color of green was chosen because of its strong association with nature, and its correlation to conservation, which is an important aspect of the Hattiesburg Zoo.
“This is very important not only in our growth as a zoo but also in our stewardship of the natural environment, which is what the zoo is all about,” Taylor said.
Mississippi Power approved of the selection, with its foundation sponsoring the new train.
“We applaud the Hattiesburg Zoo’s commitment to clean energy and implement innovative solutions to serve their community,” said Murphy, as Louie the Lightning Bug greeted guests at the train entrance during the unveiling event.
The annual cost-savings of switching from the diesel train to an all-electric train for the Hattiesburg Zoo is approximately $9,800 in fuel as well as $50,000 in labor and maintenance.
“The new train will have virtually zero maintenance costs and can be recharged for pennies,” said Salem Bunkheila, director of operations for the Hattiesburg Convention Commission.
The Hattiesburg Zoo’s old train will be kept and used during special events at the Zoo such as Renaissance Fest, Zoo Boo, and Zoo Lights where two trains are necessary to keep up with guest demand.
The Hattiesburg Zoo’s all-electric train will run every day the zoo is open. Train tickets will cost $3 per person and zoo admission is required to ride the train.
“This is very important not only in our growth as a zoo but also in our stewardship of the natural environment, which is what the zoo is all about,” Taylor said. “This long-standing partnership with the Hattiesburg Zoo and the Hattiesburg Convention Commission is a great example of the Hub City being among the green leaders in our state.”
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