The Story

It all started for Chris Gurley as a young boy when he wrote stories and drew pictures in elementary school of animals. He had a wild imagination, considering he was never exposed to such animals unless it was a summer trip to the zoo. Chris grew up on a small farm raising goats and cattle, a simple life for a young boy growing up in Clarksburg, TN. At the young age of 7, Chris became fascinated with animals and ultimately followed his dream of owning his very own collection of animals. In 2003, Chris made his first purchase of buffalo while he was finishing his associate degree in Electro-Mechanical Maintenance at Jackson State Community College.

Gurley Family - Southland Safari Wildlife Encounters

He was fortunate to land a nice career using his degree. He worked full-time at AT&T as a Technician, one of the nation’s largest telecommunications providers. By night, you could find Chris at the farm fencing, planning, and talking on the phone about animals. In 2008 AT&T experienced a huge cut with many layoffs, including Chris. Many people didn’t believe in his dream or relate to his vision. Chris had a very special relationship with his late grandfather, Odell Gurley. Odell was Chris’s go-to person who would help him think through major life decisions. Odell told Chris he did not need to start his own business raising animals and he needed to find a job with insurance and retirement. If you could hear Chris tell this story, he would say, “I never went against what “Pop” told me, but I’m sure glad I did and boy would he be proud now.”

By now you may be wondering, where is the magical woman who is helping this man get through all of this? Her name is Tosha and she just happens to be the lucky one to live out the movie, “We Bought a Zoo.” Tosha and Chris met in 2002 in college and now have three children. They started their life together and raised their first Blackcap Capuchin, named “Jack.” It was then Tosha began to want to support the dream Chris always had. Chris and Tosha had several date nights at Sonic Drive-in because it was the only place in town “Jack” could join them in a public setting.

It is our prayer you take a moment to cherish this time, adventure in nature, appreciate the beautiful creation, and most importantly make unforgettable memories. We want to thank our family and friends for supporting our dream. There are too many to mention here, but you know who you are. Thank you to the Huntingdon Animal Clinic for taking care of our animals. We could not do what we do without the support of our local Clinic. Thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions can be viewed here

The Mission of Southland Safari Cabin Rentals and Guided Tours is to promote environmental education,
conservation, exploration and adventure to create unforgettable experiences and memories.