ATASCADERO — The Charles Paddock Zoo reopened to the public on June 17 with restrictions in place to keep both the patrons and the inhabitants safe. Still, it has found a virtual way to reach the public that is quickly becoming popular. While closed down due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Atascadero based zoo started an online web series that features a mixture of their zookeepers talking about some of the over 300 animals they have at their facility. 

“When we closed the Zoo down to the public, we wanted to find a way to keep people in contact with what was going on, and some of our keepers came up with an idea for what we called, ‘Keeper Talks.'” Zoo Director Alan Baker told The Atascadero News. “They were very short 3-minute videos that we put on Facebook, where the keepers would film certain animals that they take care of and get up close and personal.”

The Zoo posted these videos on its Facebook page every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and are still up for all those in the public to enjoy. 

The Keeper Talk videos also drop fun factoids about their animals. For example, did you know the Malaysian Tiger is 11 years old or that the Ring-Tailed Lemurs have scent glands on their arms? Did you know that Roadrunners can run up to 20 miles per hour or that Meerkats are immune to scorpion venom? These are just a few of the fun informational tidbits that the zookeeper’s sprinkle over every video.

From the videos, the Charles Paddock Zoo became comfortable operating the cameras. A few weeks later, they opened up virtual tours to local teachers, allowing them to bring animals right into their virtual classrooms. 

“We were having teachers call in and would have one of our staff walk through the Zoo with their I-Pad and actually give the kids on the Zoom a virtual tour of the Zoo,” Baker noted. “What was really cool about it is that the kids could ask real-time questions, so it worked out pretty well. We were doing those until school slowly closed up for the year, so in the meantime, we thought we could offer it to the public.”

You can now book your virtual tour, bring in your kid’s favorite animal to their party, or spice up a potentially dull business meeting as the Zoo is now offering two options for virtual tours on their website, one for 15 minutes and one for 30. 

“If you are having a birthday party for your kids, you can virtually have the Red Panda join,” Baker said with a smile. “People seem to really enjoy it.”

The park is currently open to those wishing to visit in person but is only allowing 65 people into the park at once and is asking for all to wear masks and social distance to protect everyone. The Charles Paddock Zoo is currently one of the only Zoos open in California, as others like San Francisco and Los Angeles struggle to get through their respective county’s reopening procedures.

For those wishing for more information or to schedule a virtual party, head to the Zoo website at https://charlespaddockzoo.org/ Virtual parties are listed under the “Education” Tab. 

Getting through this together, Atascadero