Rendezvous at the Zoo attracts stampedes through Saturday night


Kelcey Correa (left) bringing Maxine, an Argentine Black-and-White Tegu, around for guests to meet and interact with. Maxine and many other animals were showcased at the Rendezvous at the Zoo, on Saturday, Nov. 9. Photo credit: Dominic D'Amico

By Christine Hernandez

The Exotic Animal and Management Program at Moorpark College held their eighth annual Rendezvous at the Zoo on Saturday Nov. 9 at America’s Teaching Zoo from 5-9 p.m.

Upon arrival guests were checked in and given glow sticks to get the party started. The evening was filled with joy and excitement from faculty members, students and community members. Guests enjoyed animal encounters and presentations, a silent auction, complimentary photos with smaller zoo animals, catered dinner and an open bar served by mixologists.

“The best part of this event is everyone coming out to support the new habitat,” said Judy Pernice, grandmother of an EATM student. “The enthusiasm of the students is just amazing.”

With Rendezvous at the Zoo being EATM’s largest fundraiser and event of the year, all students in the program were required to attend and work. Students were in charge of running live presentations, handling the silent auction, answering questions and engaging with guests.

EATM student Anthony Portillo, right, and Delilah, a Blue Crane, perform for the audience at Rendezvous at the Zoo, on Saturday, Nov. 9. Photo credit: Dominic D'Amico

Second year students, Victoria Trinh and Lucus Stein, were walking around throughout the evening with a 7 year old sugar glider named Low. “He is the cutest animal in the whole zoo, in my opinion,” said Trinh who had been assigned to Low for two semesters. “I love him and will miss him when I graduate.”

All students in the program are assigned to a carnivore, herbivore, primate and bird before they complete the program Stein explained. “After graduating we can work professionally with animals and train marine animals,” stated Stein. “Everything we learn here can apply to all animals, we learn the same techniques that the LA Zoo uses.”

Zeta, a Red-Crested Turaco, is observed during the Rendezvous at the Zoo event on Saturday, Nov. 9 Photo credit: Dominic D'Amico

Upon completing the EATM program many students go on to work for larger zoos, safari parks, rescues and even the entertainment industry.

“I loved the program, it was awesome,” said 2019 EATM graduate, Kathryn Lussier. “The program opened doors for me and 100% prepared me for a job.” Lussier now works with Worldwide Movie Animals after taking an internship with Hollywood Animals while in her second year in the EATM program.

Throughout the evening students presented guests with animal encounters that included a pot bellied pig named Eleanor, an Abyssinian ground hornbill named Beaker, an American badger named Tonka, an Indian crested porcupine named Rupee and many more. One of the student presentations included a previously abandoned rescue raccoon named Nuggets that demonstrated his foraging capabilities, how he washes his hands and was trained to follow students commands.

Auction items and descriptions are lined up for attendees to view and place bids on, during the Rendezvous at the Zoo on Saturday, Nov. 9. Photo credit: Dominic D'Amico

In-between animal encounters, gifts were raffled out to guests. Moorpark resident, Bill Dunlap bought tickets for an anniversary evening with his wife, who unfortunately could not attend. Dunlap instead brought a friend, Ed Munoz who won the raffle of a painted canvas footprint of Ira, the zoo’s African lion.

“We come all the time for evenings in the zoo, we are animal lovers,” said Dunlap. “We have a house full of rescue dogs, a tortoise and an African Grey [parrot]. My wife never met a rescue she didn’t bring home, including me.”

Ed Muñoz (left) and Bill Dunlap posing with the painting by Ira the Lion. Muñoz won the painting in the raffle at Rendezvous at the Zoo.

As the evening came to a close, so did the silent auction. Auctioned items included boutique hotel stays, photography sessions, limited edition collectibles, high end restaurant gift cards, private zoo tours, private golf sessions, skydiving and more.

All proceeds from the event will go directly towards the EATM program and America’s Teaching Zoo Master Plan. The zoo’s Master Plan will take place in phases, beginning with the Hillside Expansion Project in early 2020. This phase includes, but is not limited to, upgrading Ira’s habitat along with other large and medium carnivore enclosures, public interaction stations and creating a teaching garden.

Upcoming events at America’s Teaching Zoo include Arctic Lights, Ira’s 6th Birthday and the Spring Spectacular.

“We’ve been to the last two events at the zoo,” said Dunlap. “We are excited for the next event because we have at least half of a dozen people coming with us!”