In 1974, the city of Albany leased 100 unused acres of Chehaw from the state of Georgia with the intent to develop a wild animal park where exotic and indigenous animals would be displayed in their natural habitats. With the inception of the wild animal habitat, the State donated the entire Chehaw acreage to the city to further development. The City of Albany with Chehaw commissioned Jim Fowler, a native of Albany and host of the popular television show Wild Kingdom, to design and supervise the construction of the wildlife area.
The original animals were moved from the Tift Park Zoo in Albany to their new home at Chehaw between 1975 and 1977. Chehaw Wild Animal Park was officially dedicated and opened to the public in October of 1977. Accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) was achieved in 1997.