Lions, ocelots features at Moorpark teaching zoo event

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By Hans Laetz, Correspondent
March 25, 2007

The huge silver wolf stood in her den, nose in the air, and howled. The woeful sound echoed across the moors — or at least, echoed across Moorpark.

The wolf and the hundred or so exotic animal training majors at Moorpark College get two weekends every year to show off, and hundreds of kids and their parents went to the ridgetop teaching zoo in Moorpark on Saturday to take advantage of that.

Animals ranging from lions to camels to eagles strutted their stuff in the sunny breeze, even if their stuff in many cases was limited to snoozing in the sun with their paws up in the air, like the sprawled hyena four feet away from Alexa Clark, 3, of Simi Valley.

“Shhhh, you’ll wake him up, Mommy,” she scolded.

Nearby, Amanda Bialack of Woodland Hills noted of the snoozing scavenger, “He looks like my dog and sleeps like my cat.”

The community college’s zoo is open this weekend and next for its annual Spring Spectacular, a combination of animal shows, up-close meet-and-greets, education and child favorites such as face painting and ice cream.

Outside the Eye-to-Eye show, 4-year-old Delaney Arenz of Oxnard huddled with her grandmother, Luanne Sullivan, to make sure no snakes would be present. “She does not like snakes and never has,” Sullivan said.

Student wranglers put critters like Michelle the capuchin monkey, Aladdin the chinchilla, and Cowboy the yellow Amazon parrot through their paces. The hit of that show was animal handler Wes Piper, who emerged covered with a half-dozen four-inch-long hissing cockroaches from Madagascar.

“One of them has crawled into my armpit, and it’s kind of tickly,” Piper confided to the crowd of pre-schoolers and their keepers.

Delaney’s review? “I liked it when the monkey came out.” She had no comment on the hissing cockroaches.

Parents and kids alike soaked up some surprising animal facts, such as when Emma St. John of Camarillo stood four feet away from a pair of snoozing male mountain lions. “He has big paws, and that’s very cool,” the 8-year-old said.

The animal show allows children to get very close to animals in a small, intimate setting, noted parent Suzie St. John. “Emma has wanted to be a vet since she was 2, and it’s good for her to be able to check out the animals up this close.”

The centerpiece of the event is a campy Indiana Jones stage show written by students and starring such animals as a military macaw flying through the audience, a reluctant ocelot making his first public appearance, and a beaver pushing a boat up a sacred river.

That, and a chorus line of animal-management students doing a vicious air guitar riff in grass skirts and safari hats.

And with it being an Indiana Jones adventure, it contains snakes: big snakes on stage, little snakes in cages in the aisles, and rubber snakes tossed into the audience.

Delaney and her grandmother apparently took a pass on that one.

If you go

What: The annual Spring Spectacular event at America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Saturday and Sunday, March 31-April 1.

Where: 7075 Campus Road, Moorpark.

Admission cost: Adults $10, children and seniors $5.

Information: 378-1441 or 0,1375,VCS_167_5442015,00.html

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