"Founding of the Kangaroo Conservation Center"
As Founders, Owners and Directors, Roger and Debbie Nelson have spent the past 30 years involved in the day to day operations of the Center. In the early 1980’s KCC started as a private exotic animal breeding facility and wildlife sanctuary in Alpharetta, Ga., known as Nelson's Twin Oaks Farm. We have raised a variety of herbivore mammals and birds, including African and Asian Antelope, European and South American Deer, African, Asian and Australian birds and rare unusual African rodents known as Springhaas, for which they established the most successful captive breeding program in American zoos. The Center has been supported from the beginning with our private financial resources. Debbie graduated from Emory University in Atlanta with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History of Art, while Roger graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Central Florida. With a strong interest in wildlife from childhood (Roger grew up on a farm in Connecticut, Debbie worked at a zoo in Florida), we became active supporters of animal conservation programs and organizations that worked to save wildlife. Wanting to do more than contribute to other’s programs gave us the initiative to start our own Center. Our educations in arts and sciences made it possible for us to design all aspects of our Center, from buildings’ structures to aesthetic appearances, from landscape design to exhibit practicality. Through hard work, independent study, dedication and resolve, we built our Center to become an extremely successful example of both wildlife conservation and education. In previous years, the center, its animals and educational tours have been featured on numerous television programs, from "Good Morning, America," to publications like The New York Times and Smithsonian Magazine. As to why we settled in Georgia this state was picked as a location for our Center due to several factors: Debbie was familiar with the area, having graduated from Emory University. The temperate Southern weather is an important factor in caring for animals endemic to temperate and tropical climates. Additionally, Atlanta is a central hub for air travel worldwide, making it convenient for shipping animals to other qualified zoos around the world or acquiring new animals from other zoos.
KCC was the recipient of the International Wildlife Conservation Award from AZA, along with other facilities, for our financial support in establishing wild habitat in Papua New Guinea for the endangered Matschie's Tree Kangaroos. Although we love all animals, our interest in kangaroos began in 1984 when we acquired our first pair. We quickly became fascinated with marsupials (the family of mammals that includes kangaroo species). Kangaroos had a history, at that time, of not living long and having numerous health problems when in captivity. We were determined to change that, and we did, greatly contributing to knowledge on the proper care and husbandry of marsupials in captivity. We are now well into our 30th year of raising kangaroos, having raised 12 different species. Genetics is carefully watched at the Center. We have periodically brought in unrelated kangaroos to our collection. Unfortunately, due to government regulations, it has become almost impossible to acquire animals from Australia, making it more important than ever to keep healthy kangaroo populations outside of that continent.