America’s Teaching Zoo celebrates Halloween with Boo at the Zoo event


EATM student, Aimee Dennis, shows off the scarlet macaw named Rox’s beautiful wings on Nov. 1, 2020, in Moorpark, CA. EATM or America’s Teaching Zoo is located at Moorpark College and offers on hand experience for student learning zoology. Photo Credit: Audrey Lang

By Audrey Lang

This past Saturday, Oct. 31 and Sunday, Nov. 1, the America’s Teaching Zoo of Moorpark College hosted their annual Halloween event, Boo at the Zoo. After last year’s cancellation due to the fires, the zoo was pleased to be able to host the event in person this year.

Due to COVID-19, the event had to be modified to meet all safety and social distance regulations. Kris Romero, the Zoo Operations Assistant, along with Mara Rodriguez, the Zoo Operation and media contact, and other Exotic Animal Training and Management staff members got creative in designing the event to make it COVID-19 friendly.

“Well this year, in 2020, we had to eliminate things like face painting, touching the candy and putting in the kids’ baskets. Anything that would cause a group to gather we eliminated,” said Romero.

2020's Miss Moorpark, Jane Doe, (left) and Miss Teen Moorpark, Jane Doe, (middle)
2020’s Miss Moorpark, Anna Henson, (left) and Miss Teen Moorpark, Kassondra Lungren, (middle) collect candy from the slide during the second day of the Boo at the Zoo event on Nov. 2, in Moorpark, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

All activities that involved personal contact were discarded. The zoo did however add more activities that allowed for social distancing to occur.

Even the ticket distribution was created to be contactless and the number of guests was heavily monitored, controlled and cut. Each guest had their temperature checked and they filled out a health survey ensuring the safety of all that participated.

“All the tickets are pre sold so there is no touching the tickets, no exchange of money. It’s all done online. We only allow 50 people in every 15 minutes with a maximum of 300 people here, so it’s one quarter of our actual capacity,” stated Romero.

Within the zoo, the roads were decorated with special social distancing markers. The zoo organized four different trick or treat stations, each hosted by a puppet. The puppet grabbed the candy and slid it down a decorated rain gutter into each kids’ bag at the bottom of the shoot. This contactless way of passing out candy was a hit for all the trick or treaters.

The lion puppet at the carnivore station is dropping candy down the shoot for the trick or treaters.
The lion puppet at the carnivore station is dropping candy down the shoot for the trick or treaters on Nov. 1 2020, in Moorpark, CA Photo credit: Audrey Lang

The four trick or treat stations were all arranged taxonomically. Each station’s puppet related to the animals within that station.

Along with the new contactless trick or treating, there were many other contactless activities.

According to Rodriguez, “We will have animal meet and greets and there will be added shows.”

One of the main attractions and additions to this year’s Boo at the Zoo was the show It’s a Wild Life at the zoo’s Theatre with training demonstrations.

“It’s about a 15 minute show and it happens at 12:00, 1:00, 2:00 and then at 3:30 is the training demonstration,” said Romero.

Kyle Cassel, holds up Leia the Blue-tongued skink to the crowd during the Boo at the zoo event on Nov. 1, in Moorpark, CA.
Kyle Cassel, holds up Leia the Blue-tongued skink to the crowd during the Boo at the zoo event on Nov. 1, in Moorpark, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

This event was full of great Halloween related activities for the guests. Alongside all the staff members and trainers, the EATM students put in a lot of work to keep the zoo looking clean and festive.

First year EATM student, Hilary Aronoff explained, “For Boo at the Zoo, we definitely did a lot of decorating and prep work, we sanitized all the candies, we did the painting of the front road to intro the social distance guidelines and control that flow of traffic.”

In addition to preparing and decorating, another first year EATM student, Riley Magidow shared, “A lot of the pumpkins around here are from Underwood Farms, and some of us students went and picked them out.”

Overall the event was a huge success for the zoo and a big commitment for all of its members, students and staff. Boo at the Zoo may have been different due to COVID-19, but the EATM program made the most of the circumstances and were able to host their Halloween event.