SHOWN: Ira the Lion is just one of the many animal ambassadors who call America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College home.
by David Goldstein
Last month I asked a neighbor if he planned to attend local Earth Day events. Perhaps explaining his disinterest, he replied, “Shouldn’t every day be Earth Day?”
On his next birthday, I plan to tell him, “I was thinking of giving you a gift today, but shouldn’t people celebrate each other’s lives every day?”
The April spate of Earth Day events is over, but for some whose work involves environmental work, Earth Day comes any day. Zoos are a place where environmentally friendly work is done all year round.
Ventura County residents are fortunate to have two local zoos. One, America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, is convenient for residents of east Ventura County. The other, the Santa Barbara Zoo, is a short drive away for residents of western Ventura County. For the past month, both zoos have held special programs to celebrate Earth Day, and both have ongoing conservation and environmental education programs.
The culmination of Earth Day activities at America’s Teaching Zoo was the release of over 500 Palos Verdes blue butterflies. This species, once thought to be extinct, has been brought back from the abyss and students at Moorpark College are helping to restore it. Hundreds of children also took part in an Earth Day craft event. Children turned water bottles into decorative flower pots and planted seeds.
“These activities fit into our year-round mission,” said Mara Rodriguez, zoo development coordinator. “That means inspiring conservation action by creating an engaged connection with wildlife and those who care for them.”
Earth Day activities at the Santa Barbara Zoo focused on education. During the week of Earth Day, zoo employees, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Institute for Wildlife Studies staffed booths to provide zoo visitors with educational materials about on-site conservation programs. Students from the University of California, Santa Barbara manned booths near animal exhibits and conducted quizzes on nearby educational signs. Participation prizes included reusable sporks and Earth Day All-Star animal cards. On the back of the cards were explanations of how children can have “Earth Day” every day.
Advice includes things kids can do at the zoo year-round to learn more about animals and things everyone can do at home to help conserve wild habitats. Maps also guide readers to learn from the “What You Can Do” information posted on signs on almost every exhibit. These signs identify the animal, the animal’s natural habitat, and examples of what zoo visitors can do to help these animals in the wild.
In the gorilla habitat, the sign explains the importance of recycling your old phone. “By recycling your cell phone and other small electronic devices in our ECO-CELL drop boxes, you can reduce the need for materials mined in and around gorilla habitat.”
At the zoo’s penguin tank, the sign reads, ‘Choose Sustainable Seafood: There are only so many fish in the sea. . . Pick up a Seafood Watch card at any of the zoo’s restaurants: it will help you make good choices for you and our oceans.”
On the railing overlooking the zoo’s Gibbon Island, the sign explains a problem with palm oil. “. . . Indonesian and Malaysian forests are being cut down to make more farmland for palm oil, resulting in habitat loss for many animals. Choose treats that are made without palm oil or contain sustainably produced palm oil.”
Some people may express concern about animals in “captivity,” but it has been many years since American zoos have considered capturing wild animals for display. Animals in modern zoos are usually not able to live freely. Many animals at America’s Teaching Zoo were rescued from owners who kept them illegally as pets, and most of the animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo were born to other animals in zoos.
America’s Educational Zoo at Moorpark College, 7075 Campus Road, Moorpark, is open Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm with wildlife education shows at 12pm and 2pm 805-378-1441. More information is available online at www.moorparkcollege.edu/teaching-zoo.
The Santa Barbara Zoo, 500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, is open daily from 9:30am to 5:00pm with earlier closing on public holidays and special occasions. 805-962-5339. More information is available online at www.sbzoo.org.
Ventura County Public Works Department Environmental Resource Analyst David Goldstein can be reached at 805-658-4312 or email@example.com.