So Alan, how did the Charles Paddock Zoo begin?
Alan: Initially, it began by accident. Charles Paddock, a park ranger and a Boy Scout leader, started to take in injured and orphaned animals. He provided them a sanctuary here to rehabilitate them. Then when the circus rolled into town, he would trade the rescued animals in for other animals. Eventually, he had a wide assortment of wild animals.
How did it become a zoo?
Alan: After a while, the community decided to start investing and caring for the animals that had been brought together in the park by Charles Paddock. An entire zoo was built up around the animals that had been rescued here. Now, we’re a zoo that I am proud to say is accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) Accreditation Commission. There are approximately a little over 200 zoos in the United States that have that accreditation. With the accreditation, we’re set to accomplish our mission to help save animals from extinction.
That’s incredible! Can you elaborate a little more on your mission?
Alan: Our zoo was built around animals that needed help, and that’s what we continue to do today. Our goal is to provide a safe space for endangered animals, for conservation purposes. Did you know that with the work of our zoo and others accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) Accreditation Commission, we have put back 40 different species into the wild that used to be completely extinct? While, conservation is our primary goal, it often goes hand in hand with education and recreation for us.
How does education and recreation help with conservation?
Alan: We find that conservation works best if people know more about how important animals are to our environment. It also helps because we can share small steps they can take to help endangered animals right now. Take for instance the endangered orangutans, did you know that their wild habitat is at risk because of palm oil farming? If people know that, then they’re more likely to avoid products with palm oil and companies using palm oil may make the switch to something else if people start avoiding their products. It’s little bits of information and education that can make a big difference.
Recreation is also important because we want them to discover that conserving wild animals and learning about them is fun. We want them to keep coming back to learn more.
What will the Charles Paddock Zoo look like in the future?
Alan: The zoo will feature five biodiversity hotspots, the most critically endangered terrestrial areas in the world. These hotspots will include Indo-Burma, South America, West Africa, Madagascar, and California. In every hotspot, we will include endangered animals from those regions, like the new Red Pandas that are from the Indo-Burma region.
What’s the one exhibit that everyone should see at the Charles Paddock Zoo?
Alan: Definitely the new Red Pandas exhibit. This is the first exhibit that ushers visitors into a whole new environment where you can learn about how the animals live.
How can local community members help the zoo?
Alan: There are a variety of different ways you can support the zoo. You can donate to us financially to help us continue to provide excellence for both our animals and our community. Donations that come from individuals, groups, or events like the Atascadero Lakeside Wine Festival, now known as the Central Coast RESERVE at Atascadero, are important to helping us develop our conservation efforts to their full potential.
You can also volunteer either regularly here or at different events. We have quite a few of them coming up this month. Terrie, would you like to jump in here?
Terrie: Sure thing! April 13th is our big, Party for the Planet here at the zoo and that kicks off an entire month of springtime festivities. We have our Spring Festival, and camps, and we wrap up the month with Brew at the Zoo.
Charles Paddock Zoo