$25,000 Raised for Program at Teaching Zoo

A humorous animal show spoofing popular TV shows and movies was the highlight of a Spring Spectacular fund-raiser sponsored by America's Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College this weekend.

This year's fund-raiser, which began March 14 and concluded Sunday, raised nearly $25,000--a quarter of the money needed to feed the animals and pay their veterinarian bills during the year. During the event's two weekends, more than 3,000 people visited the teaching zoo.

The "Animal Channel" wildlife show featured four students from the college's Exotic Animal Training and Management Program who impersonated the characters from "Seinfeld" watching an evening of television.

As they switched channels, the stage came to life with scenes from "ER," "Men in Black" and the localized "Ace Ventura County, Pet Detective." Each skit emphasized ecology awareness and offered performances by a raccoon, a llama, a snapping turtle and a porcupine, among other creatures.

In the "Mission Impossible" skit, the star was a raccoon, whose mission--if he chose to accept it--was to show people how to clean up their environment. As the famed theme song played, the raccoon picked up an aluminum can and placed it in a recycling bin.

The teaching zoo's annual fund-raiser, now in its eighth year, was held over two consecutive weekends. It gives the public a chance to tour the program's five-acre facility and watch educational presentations.

"What we want to do is educate people about conservation," said Lynne Doria, the zoo's assistant director and an instructor at the college. Doria was the program's first graduate 26 years ago. "This is not a circus where we dress up the animals. We have them performing natural behaviors."

The program is designed to prepare students for jobs at zoos, wildlife theme parks and in the movie industry.

Steve Talley, a Fish and Wildlife inspector, raved about Moorpark College's zoo, saying there are animals in it that he almost never sees.

"Imagine, you can drive to Moorpark and see some very rare animals, like the kookaburra" bird, Talley said. "And they're alive, not stuffed or mounted."

America's Teaching Zoo is open to the public every weekend day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers tours and animal shows at noon and 1, 2 and 3 p.m. The facility will be closed May 9 for the program's spring graduation ceremony. Call 378-1441 for more information.

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