Wilmington, North Carolina: Tregembo Animal Park (Tote-Em-In Zoo)An odd, private zoo, revived as Tregembo Animal Park in 2004. It's been cleaned up in recent years, so its shrunken heads and Museum of Oddities may be gone, but you enter the building through a giant lion's maw.
- 5811 Carolina Beach Rd, Wilmington, NC
- Several miles south of town on US 421/Carolina Beach Rd, and about a mile south of its intersection with Hwy 132/S. College Rd. On the northbound side.
- 9 am - 4 pm Spring and Fall, 9 am - 6 pm Memorial Day - Labor day, and 9 am- 3 (Call to verify)
Visitor Tips and News About Tregembo Animal Park (Tote-Em-In Zoo)
After reading the other visitor tips, we had to stop by the Tote-Em-In to find out the latest news. Well, here's what we found: When we went through the giant lion head door, we were greeted by a sign that read something like: "If you do not like seeing animals in cages, turn around now and do not enter this zoo."
That was enough of a warning for me, who doesn't enjoy miserable animals, so we decided we would just visit the gift shop. Again, another friendly greeting: a locked turnstile! We asked if we could come into the gift shop without going to the zoo and were told in no uncertain terms by two very crabby women that the gift shop was only for customers of the zoo. Too bad for them, because we love buying useless plastic objects, particularly when they are shaped like animals.[Happy Traveler, 12/01/2008]
We did not have time to visit the actual zoo, but nearly busted a gut laughing in the gift shop. They have the ultimate in tourist cheesiness, along with the most bizarre collection of doodads in one place. We saw bizarre religious dioramas, snowglobes, pizza cutters, no parking signs, frightening products, nail polish, lipstick...it goes on and on. We did learn before exiting that they had bought out a dollar store and this explained the eclectic nature of their merchandise. Very cost-effective, and great for gag gifts. The lady working was very friendly.[Summerlin Page, 06/25/2003]
Jerry Brewer sold the park back to the Tregembo family, which has reopened it as Tregembo Animal Park. The gaping lion mouth entrance is still here, but there's no word on the status of the World Oddity Museum....
Blaming the economy, owner Jerry Brewer has announced that the Tote-Em-In Zoo will close in October 2003 after fifty years of operation. Brewer has worked at the zoo his entire life, and bought the zoo from founder George Tregembo in 1990. According to newspaper reports, lots of Wilmington residents are saddened by the news and lots of animal lovers are overjoyed. Most of the animal enclosures are small, and many of them are on concrete slabs. When I visited recently, Simba the lion did NOT look (or sound) very happy in his small cage. Many of the other cages were empty. Supposedly, the remaining animals are going to a zoo in Virginia after the Tote-Em-In closes.
A few days after Brewer's announcement, the Tregembo family, which still owns the property on which the zoo is located, said that after the Tote-Em-In closes, they'll reopen the zoo as an "animal park," although it's unclear if any of the current animals would be kept around. Currently, there's no word on what will happen to the Chinese mermaid and the other exhibits at the zoo's World Oddity Museum.[Dean Jeffrey, 03/02/2003]
Tote-Em-In Zoo -- This is a fairly average zoo, with a few major exceptions:
- The door is a gigantic plaster lion's head -- Need I say more?
- It houses the lion that was the basis for Simba in the Lion King.
- The Museum of Oddities! It features, among other things, a dead, two-headed, eight-legged sheep (not stuffed, which makes it kinda creepy), one of those Chinese merman things (a mummified half-human half-fish),an unwrapped mummy, headgear from around the world, JFK memorabilia, eggs from various flightless birds, a step-by-step photo guide of an Australian Aborigine crocodile-killing ritual, Native American masks, and an empty bombshell.
This place also used to be the home of the world's oldest elephant in captivity, but it has since died of old age (news clippings about the elephant are featured in the gift shop.[Vermin Boy, 06/23/2000]