COUNTYWIDE : Animals, Students Raise Funds for Zoo

Exotic lizards, llamas and sea lions performed for delighted crowds in Moorpark on Saturday as the animals' student trainers raised money for what could be the county's first public zoo.

Organizers from Moorpark College's exotic animal training and management program hoped to raise more than $20,000 during its daylong festival, which began with a morning foot race and ended with afternoon animal shows.

Students and faculty held the fund-raiser to help the school expand its facilities to include a marine mammal exhibit, a 400-seat amphitheater and larger cages for its 160 exotic animals. The school hopes to open a "teaching zoo" as early as this fall, said Gary Wilson, the program's director.

Last summer, the college moved its animals to a site on campus that includes a hillside for grazing zebras and water buffalo, Wilson said. Educators and students in the program hope to raise more than $1 million to complete facilities at the zoo and training center.

"People will be able to see our students work with the animals directly," Wilson said.

On Saturday, children and their parents clamored to see a large boa constrictor, a potbellied pig, a turkey vulture and an African hedgehog.

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