CRESTVIEW — The Emerald Coast Zoo is asking the community for help — a lot of help.

The zoo’s owner, Rick de Ridder, recently started a GoFundMe page asking people to donate $400,000 to the zoo to enhance the animals’ habitats.

“Our plan was to pay cash and refinance it with the bank and get all the animals new enclosures,” said de Ridder. “The bank would not give us the loan until we’ve been in business for three years.”

“We’ve done this with little money,” de Ridder added. “We’ve made a few improvements, but now we need help.”

De Ridder, dubbed “Rick the Reptile Guy” by late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, bought the zoo a little over a year ago.

Rick and his wife, Sara, sold their home in Cocoa Beach to purchase the zoo. The couple, along with their children, David, Suzy and Betsy, moved onto the zoo grounds. All five members of the family live together in an RV and drive a car with over 400,000 miles on it. The entire family works at the zoo together.

De Ridder says they can’t afford the bigger improvements, such as the tiger, lion and wolf enclosures, on their own, so they turned to the community via GoFundMe.

“These animals need larger habitats that are physically and mentally stimulating. With new enclosures, the animals will be healthier and thrive in a place that feels like home,” the GoFundMe page said.

So far, the zoo has raised almost $5,000.

The zoo, originally founded in 1994, sits on 10 acres just off of U.S. Highway 90, and features over 150 animals. The de Ridders have added goat yoga and other encounters, including sloth petting, but are running out of options.

“I’ve done what I can but now to get to the next level, we need help,” de Ridder said. “This is the Crestview zoo so it would be cool if people got together and helped us do this.”

One incentive to donating to the zoo is the new donor wall that will be built near the zoo’s entrance. The wall will consist of the names of donors who give $100 or more. The wall will also say how much each person donated.

“We want to make it look cool,” said de Ridder. “Right when you walk in, people are going to wonder, ‘How does this work?’ Then boom, that’s how. It’s the community getting behind it.”

The money that has already been raised has helped to start updating the diet center where the zoo keeps the animals’ food. De Ridder said that his goal is to continue to make changes to the zoo as they hit different money marks.

If the full funds are not raised, the zoo will have to put the updates on hold, but de Ridder said if the GoFundMe does not work, he believes God will have a different way.

“When we first got the place, we had quite a few trials and tribulations like it says in James and we need to rejoice when these come,” de Ridder said. “So we have to rely on faith and that this is God’s plan for us.”

“My brother told me a quote one time,” de Ridder added. “If it’s your plan, it probably will not succeed, but if it’s God’s plan, it cannot fail.”