Visiting America’s Teaching Zoo in Moorpark

Now that the rain is done (fingers crossed) I’m itching to head out and explore. I’ve been cooped up too long! In fact, my cabin fever is so bad that I don’t want to just get out of the house I want to explore regions far and wide! The further the better! Since it’s not vacation time yet I’m making do with day trips and recently I headed to Ventura county to visit a hidden gem – America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College.

I bet you didn’t know there was a zoo in Moorpark. I certainly didn’t until I came across an article in Westways magazine. I was instantly intrigued and so determined to see it that I put it on my 2019must visitlist and as soon as the weather cleared I paid it a visit.

I think I picked the perfect weekend to visit. The weather was cool and crisp and the surrounding hillsides were lush and green. I never knew Moorpark could be so beautiful!

Founded in 1974, the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program trains students to work with a variety of exotic animals from birds to reptiles to mammals and more. Out of the program grew America’s Teaching Zoo and it now resides on a 5 acre site at Moorpark College. On the weekend it’s open to the public and largely staffed by the students in the program.

Today there are over 130 different animals at the zoo ranging from the small Madagascar cockroach to the mighty lion. A variety of the animals appear in a show so they can showcase the skills the students have taught them.

The shows are also a great opportunity to see a number of animals up close and personal.

In actuality the zoo is so small and inmate that you can see most animals up close.

I instantly loved that about the zoo. I’ve been to a number of larger, fancier facilities but I’ve never seen animals as close as I did here. Especially, big cats. I love big cats and was so excited to really observe them here.

Look at that paw!

Now, I know it’s not fun to see animals in cages but things aren’t always as they seem and these cats are well cared for. All of the animals at the zoo have been donated, either from larger zoos, law enforcement or the public. Several of the animals were illegal pets and are now in a much better environment than where they started.  The big cats environment is larger than the picture indicates and they have a whole playground for their enrichment. In addition, the zoo is raising funds to give them an even better space and are happily accepting donations here.

I was able to observe just how loved the animals are on a behind the scene tour. Every weekend these tours, led by current students, are offered and take visitors to areas not normally on view to the public like the kitchen and big cat playground and to observe some animals even more closely.

The tour was super interesting and I gained a real insight into exotic animal training. For instance, I was surprised to discover the students work with donkeys as they’re not really exotic. But, I learned that they train with farm animals when they can’t access certain exotic animals. A donkey is similar to a zebra so they can learn a lot about the latter when working with the former. I never knew that!

A visit to America’s Teaching Zoo is an experience entirely different than a visit to any other. It may have a smaller collection of animals but nowhere else will you get to meet them more intimately. The students have a true love for what they do and their care of the animals is inspiring. It’s the perfect place for both kids and adults to visit and I hope that it continues to grow and thrive.



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