How America’s Teaching Zoo is handling the COVID-19 pandemic


Image Courtesy of VCCCD photo archive.

By David Chavez

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Moorpark College has closed itself off from the public, and only essential staff may enter the campus. One essential job that continues during the pandemic is at America’s Teaching Zoo.

The animals at America’s Teaching Zoo cannot be left alone, especially during this pandemic, so the staff are working even harder to make sure that the animals are safe. Mara Rodriguez, a spokesperson for America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College talked about what the staffs main priories are.

“We are here during the campus closure. Our animal care needs are our priority and focus 365 days a year. We are keeping to a bare minimum staff and really focus on the essential of care and doing so safely,” Rodriguez said.

Image courtesy of VCCCD photo archive.
Image courtesy of VCCCD photo archive.

The EATM staff have taken precautions when it comes to taking care of the animals, or working with other staff members, so that it lowers the risk of being infected. Brianna Phillips, a student at Moorpark College, and zoo ambassador talked about what precautions the staff are taking to stay safe from COVID-19.

“We wear masks and gloves when doing any food prep regardless of the animal. We are maintaining the six foot distance for both people and primates. We have a skeleton schedule now of 11 people to limit the amount of possible interactions,” Phillips said. “The normal hangout areas are closed currently as well as most computers to limit the amount of stuff being touched. Those are disinfected twice a day as well as any handles that may have been touched through the day by staff.”

Due to the contagious nature of COVID-19, the amount of staff working at the zoo during the same time has been reduced. Rodriguez talked about how they were able to exercise social distancing with a bare minimum staff. This consists of two staff members, and about two to three students cleaning in each of the eight areas at the zoo.

Phillips spoke about the pressure and challenges associated with the new sudden changes.

“It is more stressful just because we haven’t had lots of practice working with each animal we usually just turnover on the ones we are assigned. So none of it is really memory for diets and meds and we all are trying to ensure each animal is getting exactly what it needs,” Phillips stated.

When all VCCCD campuses were closed, this brought up concerns over what would happen to the animals at America’s Teaching Zoo. During a Ventura County Community College District special board meeting, Trustee Dianne McKay talked about her concerns over the zoo during the pandemic.

“Moorpark College has a zoo. I mean, there’s a lot of animals there and people that have to take care of them that alone could be an enormous sum that in an emergency situation has to be dealt with,” McKay said. “Unless they can find a place to put all those animals, I don’t think foreclosure of Moorpark is an option.”

An end to the COVID-19 pandemic is not clear but staff and students will continue to care for the animals and exhibits. To stay up to date on whats happening inside America’s Teaching Zoo, visit the zoo’s Instagram page or web page.