James Cox, the founder of Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue in Anderson County, died Tuesday.
The cause of his death wasn’t clear, although the zoo had said in late January that Cox had had pneumonia and a weak heart and was in the hospital, moving from critical care to the heart floor. At that time, he was expected to be discharged in a few days to recover before heart surgery.
Many people in Anderson County and across the region said they were heartbroken to hear the news of his death on Tuesday.
“Today, we mourn the loss of a very special man,” the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office said in a social media post. “James had a deep passion to help the people of Anderson County and the countless animals he rescued. His heart was pure, and his love for humanity will be remembered for generations to come. There is not enough room on Facebook to list all of the tremendous ways he made an impact. He was truly that special. James, we are forever grateful for your friendship.”
Little Ponderosa Zoo is a nonprofit exotic animal rescue and zoo located on Granite Road. The zoo has rescued animals from across the United States, and about 98 percent of the animals are rescues. The zoo has been approved by the United States Department of Agriculture for providing a safe and secure home for abandoned, abused, and neglected exotic and domestic animals. It has a range of animals including mammals, birds, and cold-blooded creatures. In 2019, it became a licensed white-tail deer rehabilitation facility.
The zoo had been rebuilt after a devastating fire in December 2017 and had hosted a drive-through nativity scene in December, just before Christmas. The zoo has worked with inmates. Some of the zoo’s animals are sometimes brought to events such as the Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge.
“Our office is deeply saddened by the the news of James Cox, owner of the Little Ponderosa Zoo, passing,” said Dave Clark, district attorney general in Anderson County. “Please remember his family in your thoughts as well as the zoo staff during this difficult time. General Clark and all of the staff at the Seventh District send our sincere condolences during this time as well as thoughts and prayers.”
Learn more about the Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue here.