Los Angeles offers so many unique opportunities to get up close and personal with animals and the people who take care of them. Unfortunately, some of these options can be quite costly. For instance, LA Zoo tickets for a mentor and a child over 12 can run up to $42! Some animal sanctuaries, too, have age restrictions for visitors.
That’s why we’re lucky to have places like America’s Teaching Zoo, a program at Moorpark College that opens its doors every weekend to the public for a look at the lives of animals and their handlers-in-training. For $14, you and your Little can check out their animal show, animal demonstrations, and the various enclosures built and maintained by the students. For an additional $14, you and your Little can access a behind the scenes guided tour of the grounds, buildings, and animals that are not in plain sight to the rest of the visitors.
My Little Sister and I made the trek out to Moorpark for a visit in late September. Before arriving at the zoo, we made a stop at Ralphs to grab some lunch to bring along. I recommend bringing a lunch if you know you’ll both be hungry, as I didn’t see any snack options within the zoo. Plus, there are plenty of benches and shady areas to enjoy scenic views of the area and animal enclosures.
Our first exposure to the zoo was the animal show. I’ll admit, this may have been geared toward a younger audience, but my Little and I did learn a thing or two about the animals they presented. A lot of very young kids were in attendance, and can be pretty distracting, so I recommend getting a front row seat to this show, if you plan to attend. The show featured fun facts and brought out animals like a toad, turtle, frog, cockroach, dog, and crane.
The highlight of this outing was the behind the scenes tour. Though it is an extra $14 total for 2 people to attend, it is well worth the look behind the curtain at how a zoo functions and what these students are learning. I can see this experience being especially valuable for a Little that is interested in a career working with animals. Handlers-in-training take animals on walks around the back of the park, so we had a chance encounter with a New Guinea singing dog. We also got to see many of the small primates they are rehabilitating, as well as the kitchen where they prepare food for the animals. Interestingly, part of the students’ work is to create and build the habitats the animals live in, and the structures they play with. This requires them to be knowledgeable about what interests each particular animal. Because the tours are quite small, they’re also a great opportunity for you and your Little to ask questions of the tour guides.
All in all, my Little and I enjoyed our outing to America’s Teaching Zoo. Though my Little has no interest in becoming an animal handler, she did encounter some animals that she’d never heard of before, and learned some interesting facts in the process. Though I personally can find aspects of zoos problematic, I did get the sense that the students at America’s Teaching Zoo were responsible and passionate about the well-being of the animals under their care.
America’s Teaching Zoo is open weekends from 11 am – 5 pm, excluding holidays. There is plenty of parking, though I recommend bringing a lunch for your visit. Check their site for show times and special events! On Dec. 16 and 17, 2017, the zoo hosts an “Arctic Lights” event, featuring real snow, hot chocolate, and winter crafts for the kids. On Feb. 3, 2018, the zoo celebrates Ira the lion’s birthday, featuring birthday cake and crowns for all visitors that attend.