America’s Teaching Zoo reopens and celebrates Ira the lion’s seventh birthday

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Ira the Lion looks into the crowd after enjoying his specially made birthday gifts during his seventh Birthday celebration on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021 in Moorpark, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Valeri Roussak

With COVID-19 cases slowly going down, the Exotic Animal Training and Management program officially reopened America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College on Feb. 6, the same day as the seventh birthday of Ira the lion.

The zoo had to reclose after California Governor Gavin Newsom took California into a second lockdown to help combat the spread of the virus.

The gate opened at 11 a.m. and families gathered in line to come in. Every person had to wear a mask and get their temperature taken at a health screening booth before walking into the zoo.

Kristina Ruiz, a second year EATM student, showcases Cheyenee a red-shouldered hawk to visitors at America's Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, CA on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021.
Kristina Ruiz, a second year EATM student, showcases Cheyenee a red-shouldered hawk to visitors at America's Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, CA on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

First year student trainers Ana Hugues and Amanda Craig explained how they take the pandemic seriously and sanitize everything consistently.

“We have hand-washing stations that have soap and water and hand sanitizer at every area so every time we’re touching animals or are around people we make sure to have that available,” Craig stated.

“We also have someone going around the zoo each hour sanitizing any areas that we touch,” Hugues added.

Walking in, visitors might see an EATM student walking around with an animal. The students try to walk each animal at least once a day outside, in order to let them get comfortable around visitors.

First year EATM students, Edison Rouillard and Kaitlin Neer pose for a photo with Kio the snake at America's Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, CA on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021.
First year EATM students, Edison Rouillard and Kaitlin Neer pose for a photo with Kio the snake at America's Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, CA on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Second year EATM student Seleste Rascon was especially excited to see families and their reactions to all the different animals.

“Seeing the kids get so excited and even the parents when we tell them something new about the animals that they didn’t know before is really awesome,” Rascon expressed..

Although the pandemic has been affecting activities and events, it didn’t stop the EATM students to celebrate Ira the lion’s seventh birthday.

Ira received some boxes to tear apart, along with a life size paper giraffe and even a birthday cake. The cake consisted of different animal meat mixed together and another piece at the top.

As Ira is dubbed the “King of the Campus,” it is only fit for a king to live in his kingdom. Ira was moved into a bigger space for him to roam around and not feel too closed in.

Xander Mora, a second year EATM student, feeds Ira the lion during Ira's seventh birthday celebration at America's Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, CA on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021.
Xander Mora, a second year EATM student, feeds Ira the lion during Ira's seventh birthday celebration at America's Teaching Zoo in Moorpark, CA on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

With many kinds of animals all around the park, it is worth buying a ticket to enjoy the experience. The EATM students also demonstrate showings of certain animals and have animal training presentations.

There are general admission tickets for $9, and annual memberships are also sold starting at $35. All proceeds will be going to the zoo and improving the animals’ quality of life.

The zoo closes at 5 p.m. and is open Saturdays and Sundays. For more information visit America’s Teaching Zoo.