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Put Me In The Zoo: America's Teaching Zoo Review

Discussion in 'United States' started by DavidBrown, 10 May 2015.

  1. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Moderator Staff Member

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    Put Me In The Zoo: America’s Teaching Zoo Review
    Teaching Zoo | Moorpark College

    Date of visit: May 9, 2015

    Does this zoo satisfy the reviewer’s Inner-3-Year-Old by featuring his lifelong favorite animals, giraffes and elephants?

    This zoo has no giraffes or elephants, but it apparently did have an Asian elephant in the past according to the history section of its website.

    America’s Teaching Zoo is the teaching laboratory for the Exotic Animal Training and Management program at Moorpark College, a community college in Moorpark, California. It is a 5-acre facility that is open to the public on weekends. It is primarily a facility where students learn animal management, handling, and training in a real life facility. The zoo program was started in 1974 and the current facility opened in 1980, according to the zoo’s history website.

    The teaching zoo was featured in a documentary series on Animal Planet.

    Does this zoo have any animals that would excite a zoo aficionado?

    The animal collection at this zoo is quite eclectic and I think is likely put together based on giving students a range of experience caring for a range of taxa rather than for display or conservation breeding. With one major exception there is no breeding at this zoo to my knowledge, or at least there are not breeding groups of animals as one finds at most zoos.

    The zoo has a breeding program for species of endangered butterflies, which to my knowledge is unique among any Californian zoos and indeed most zoos in general. They breed Palos Verdes blue butterflies (once thought extinct), Lange’s metalmarks, and Laguna mountain skippers. Hundreds of each species are bred here and released in native habitat. Several of the enclosures where the butterflies are raised are on exhibit, so you may be able to see the butterflies. This exhibit may be of interest to zoo nerds, as there is nothing else like it that I am aware of in other zoos in the region.

    There are several species here that are not found in many other zoos in California. Keep in mind that the collection changes as animals die and new ones come in, so what you see may be different on each visit. On this visit I saw olive and hamadryas baboons, an American badger, a Galapagos tortoise, and an Abdim’s stork. These species are not widespread in Californian zoos.

    The zoo is arranged thematically by taxa. There is a “parrot garden” section with macaws, Amazon parrots, and sulphur crested cockatoos in relatively small cages; likely the same size of cages that an aviculturist would keep in a backyard. The birds are brought out to play on a regular basis and have a whole playground built on a lawn across from the cage area. There is a carnivore area with African lions (a male and female), spotted hyenas, mountain lion, serval, bobcat, coyotes, and other species not on display. The hoofstock area has mainly domestic species including water buffalo (very impressive), llamas, sheep, and pigs. The primate section has siamangs, brown crested capuchins, crested gibbon (not seen), black-handed spider monkey, ring-tailed lemurs, squirrel monkey, and hamadryas and olive baboons. In the past they also had mandrills, but they died I guess. There are enclosures for a Galapagos tortoise and an American alligator. The bird area had blue crane, Abdim’s stork, red crested turaco, and Abyssian ground hornbills.

    Does this zoo have any immersion exhibits that would impress a zoo aficionado? Does this zoo have any good basic exhibits?

    I have really mixed feelings about this place. I would likely find it appalling and avoid it based on the aesthetics if it were a for-profit zoo. However I know that the animals are very well cared for and get constant attention, exercise, and enrichment, and that the people running the zoo are students getting much needed real life experience.

    The way I think about America’s Teaching Zoo is that it is essentially the behind-the-scenes guts of a zoo without the actual exhibits that one would find in a modern zoo.

    The facility has mostly cages that are the equivalent to the holding area of exhibits in any zoo. There are no real immersion exhibits, or really many exhibits that one would find in most modern zoos. Most of the cages are rather ramshackle kennel-type and corncrib type cages that are full of enrichment items and toys for the animals. Many of the animals are featured in presentations and come out of their cages on a regular basis. I understand that the carnivores are frequently shifted around and have exercise areas outside of their relatively small cages.

    The aesthetic standards of the enclosures at this zoo are far below what any AZA-accredited (this zoo is no accredited) would find acceptable, but it was not built as a zoo for the public to visit on a regular basis.

    The highlights of a zoo visit are the animal presentations given in the zoo’s amphitheater where the students demonstrate animal behaviors and give talks about their natural history. It is clear from walking around the zoo that real learning opportunities are being provided and that the animal care is superb.

    Does this zoo have any elements that make it particularly family friendly?

    The zoo is very family friendly. It is small and there are animal presentations and shows given all day. There were advertisements up for zoo summer programs for kids from pre-school through high school. I think that many young people who want to be animal keepers or trainers aspire to be in this program and a visit would give them a sense of how a zoo really functions behind the scenes.

    Does this zoo have any interesting plans for the future?

    The zoo looks pretty much as it did when I first visited it in 2006, and I am not aware of any plans to upgrade enclosures or expand the zoo.

    Would a zoo aficionado like this zoo enough to go out of his or her way to visit it?

    If you are a diehard zoo nerd bent on seeing every zoo in California then you will likely want to visit this zoo to tick it off your list.

    If you want to see a unique exhibit of an endangered butterfly breeding facility then you will probably want to visit this zoo.

    If you have kids who want to be zookeepers and you want to show them the guts of what a zoo looks like behind the scenes then you may want to visit this zoo.

    If you enjoy immersion exhibits and primarily visit a zoo for this reason then this zoo will likely not be enjoyable for you.
     
    Last edited: 10 May 2015
  2. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the info DavidBrown. Sounds interesting.
     
  3. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I think that you just described your old pal "snowleopard". :) Thanks for another informative review!
     
  4. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    There is also a very interesting book on the facility.
    [ame=http://www.amazon.com/Kicked-Bitten-Scratched-Lessons-Trainers/dp/0143111949/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431235289&sr=1-1&keywords=kicked+bitten+and+scratched]Amazon.com: Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World's Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers (9780143111948): Amy Sutherland: Books[/ame]
     
  5. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Moderator Staff Member

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    You're welcome. The bit about the immersive exhibits was actually written with you in mind.
     
  6. zooman

    zooman Well-Known Member

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    Thanks David,

    I think it would be interesting to measure the stress levels of these animals compared to the same species in big naturalistic enclosures. My hunch would be that the animal receiving all the enrichment but small enclosure just might be getter off!
     
  7. wally war eagle

    wally war eagle Well-Known Member

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    I highly recommend visiting the Santa Fe State College Teaching Zoo in Gainesville, Fl. off and adjoining I75 at the first north exit. It is very unique and students regularly build and renovate exhibits as part of their training.
     
  8. JBZvolunteer

    JBZvolunteer Well-Known Member

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    You are correct about the zoo not breeding any of its main animals. The only animals the zoo is in charge of breeding is the feeder colony of insects it maintains. The butterfly project is technically run through the biology department I believe.

    The zoo also just released a new master plan this year with the first area they will be working on consisting of the carnivore area I believe. As part of this master plan they would also like to build a marine facility, but that wouldn't be till further down the road. Besides the large projects, most enclosure renovations are done by students such as the new mews that the students put up back in March.
     
  9. azcheetah2

    azcheetah2 Well-Known Member

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    It's interesting that the school doesn't have any marine facilities since so many of the trainers at Sea World attended the Exotic Animal Training & Mgmt program there.

    I've never been to this facility but I know people who have and enjoyed it. These are more marine mammal nuts than zoo nerds so they don't have much to compare it to
     
  10. JBZvolunteer

    JBZvolunteer Well-Known Member

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    They use to have a sea lion, Schmoo, but she passed away from old age. they need to build a new facility first, because the old one can is only large enough to hold one which is no longer allowed due to marine mammal standards. The students are still getting marine mammal experience, with students having the opportunity recently to help at the SeaWorld rescue center due to the massive number of sea lion pup strandings.
     
  11. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Moderator Staff Member

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    Have you seen the actual master plan online anywhere? All I could find was this story in Moorpark College's student newspaper about it which mentions that they want to build new carnivore enclosures. That is good news and hopefully will happen.

    Student Voice : New habitats for the teaching zoo
     
  12. azcheetah2

    azcheetah2 Well-Known Member

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    Oh, okay. Thank you. Yeah, it would definitely be beneficial to the students if they had their own facility, although if "they" are headed for a job at Sea World I can imagine it being quite exciting for them to be able to work with them while still in school without having to work in the education department or gift shop first.