City Manager, Rachelle Rickard

By: City Manager, Rachelle Rickard

The Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero has been honored to be accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) for nearly three decades now. Accreditation is verification of the zoo’s ongoing commitment to animal management and welfare, veterinary care, wildlife conservation and public education. In addition, the Zoo is very pleased to be an active, participating partner with the AZA in its “Species Survival Plan” (SSP) Programs, which oversee the population management of many threatened and endangered species.

What does being an SSP Program partner mean?  Well, have you ever wondered why you don’t see more animal babies at the zoo, or where all the cute little babies that have been born at the zoo go? If they’re part of an SSP Program and when they’re old enough to become a potential partner with a like-minded, healthy and genetically diverse member of the opposite sex of their own species, they are relocated to another AZA accredited SSP Program facility to be introduced, hopefully become “better acquainted” and, if they enjoy each other’s company, make more healthy babies!

Just like parents, our zookeepers feel somewhat sad but also proud when it’s time for the animals that have been born and raised at the zoo to leave home, which happens quite often. The zoo is almost constantly in the process of either “better acquainting” new animal partners with each other, or sending and receiving various SSP Program animals for this purpose. It could be said that the zoo staff members frequently have sex on their minds, but only with the very best of intentions and in the interest of animal conservation!

SSP Programs help to improve ongoing animal conservation efforts and, whenever possible, enhance the population of species in the wild. Releasing heathy and genetically diverse animals back into their native habitats provides many great benefits to wild animal populations. SSP Program animals have successfully been reintroduced to the wild, including California Condors from the San Diego Zoo; as well as Black and White Ruffed Lemurs from our own Charles Paddock Zoo, which were reintroduced to their native island of Madagascar several years back. Our zoo also hopes to soon be able to participate in an SSP Program that will reintroduce endangered Puerto Rican Crested Toads back to their native island.

The Charles Paddock Zoo currently features animals from 41 active and different SSP Program species, including a fossa, red pandas, a Malayan tiger, lemurs, and meerkats. Our beautiful, new and long-awaited Red Panda Exhibit will be opening to the public in the very near future; we have several red pandas and other animal residents that will soon be getting acclimated to their new home and preparing for visitors!

With over 300 animals, the zoo also exhibits many other local and exotic species.  The zoo is open every day of the year except for Christmas and Thanksgiving; the hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the winter and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer.

As always, if you have any questions regarding this or any other topic concerning the City, please feel free to contact me at