Family Fun at the California Moorpark Teaching Zoo
In light of recent events where a zoo animal was killed to save the life of a child, it is understandable that these facilities get a lot of bad rap from animal right’s activists and other groups. Admittedly, sometimes it is warranted. But in nearly all certified zoos, animals benefit greatly from various organizations and programs that are there to heal and rehabilitate while preventing the extinction of certain species and educating the public. Taking your children to places like the Moorpark Teaching Zoo gives them opportunities to experience and learn how creatures live. They can learn not only how to help animals after a crisis, but also how to prevent one.
Moorpark Teaching Zoo
There are two teaching zoos currently in existence in the US. One is the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo in Gainsville, Florida, and it specializes in training zookeepers. The second is in Moorpark, California, which is well-known in the Performing Animal industry circles. Moorpark Teaching Zoo is an academic institution attached to a college in addition to being a facility for animals. The zoo was featured in Animal Planet’s “Moorpark 24/7”.
In 1974, the Exotic Animal Training and Management (EATM) program began with a lone wolf called Kiska. Since then, the zoo has become more well-known and sees many thousands of visitors a year. Graduates of the Moorpark Teaching Zoo get jobs in zoos, sanctuaries, animal parks, animal research facilities and aquariums across the country; especially as trainers. Many also go on to train animals to work in the film and television industry.
Moorpark acquires animals through donations as well as breeding programs. Loans from major zoos and research centers allowed for the building of additional enclosures.
Because of its location, the zoo has been threatened by fires several times in past decades. The worst was in October 2003 where wildfires forced the evacuation of the zoo and animals. The facility was undamaged, but the surrounding hills burned completely. Unfortunately, Kermit the Noble Macaw, and Tango the Arctic Fox died due to stress-related issues caused by the flames. In October 2007, blazes again threatened the area and most of the animals were evacuated as a precaution. Thankfully, the flames did not reach the college. The animals safely returned after two days.
Currently, the zoo has over 200 types of animals including a Bengal tiger, African Lions, Spotted Hyena, Mountain Lions, a wide variety of Primates, birds, and many other exotic and endangered animals. Visitors can see creatures big and small; from eagles, possums, rattlesnakes, beavers, hedgehogs, chervils, goats, llamas, parrots, parakeets, gibbons, turtles, a Galapagos Tortoise, up to and including New Guinea Singing Dogs.
Be aware that the animals are in small enclosures and many are not authentic, naturalistic settings. Many of the animals come from abusive situations and may act aggressively or unusually. Many of the tour guides will be happy to tell you stories about the animals.
There is a 45-minute informative show that introduces the visitors to some of the zoo’s animals. The seating is in a stadium. Make sure you grab an aisle seat if your kid is antsy or a front row seat if they want to see the animals up close. In the presentation, they showcase a few birds, reptiles and even the hissing Madagascar cockroach.
Parents can budget around an hour for their children to see the residents of the outdoor enclosures. Student docents are around each cage to answer questions, and there are spots for animal encounters around the compound.
There is a VIP tour which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the zoo. They discuss training, feeding, and caring for their 130 exotic animals! They limit the number of guests to 15 people per group. They allow you to interact with some of the creatures.
Autism Travel Tips:
- The zoo is small. You will not experience crowds or lines.
- Parking: Disabled parking spots require a placard.
- The pathways weren’t paved, but it is wheelchair/stroller accessible.
- The zoo is clean, but there are some strong smells around some enclosures.
- Since this is not a big tourist attraction, there are not many spots to sit or that have shade. Look for some benches around the monkey enclosures.
- The area is mostly unpaved. Closed shoes are recommended.
- It can get muddy after it rains in the winter. Come prepared with appropriate footwear. Bring a jacket since it can get windy in the hills.
- In the summer, it can be sweltering and humid so dress your child accordingly.
- Most of the exhibits are outdoors except for the reptile area. MAKE SURE YOU LOOK AT THE GROUND AS RATTLESNAKES MIGHT BE ABOUT.
- The ground is uneven. Children who are unsteady on their feet or have balance issues may need help.
- Younger kids may need a boost to see into most of the high-barrier enclosures.
- Come equipped with sunscreen and insect repellent.
- Bring and drink plenty of water! There are no concession areas.
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