‘Party for the Planet’ Earth Day Celebration happening on Saturday, April 20 

ATASCADERO — The Charles Paddock Zoo has announced the arrival of “Shelby,” a 13-year-old female fossa, which is now on exhibit and can be seen by watchful visitors and in time for the last weekend of the Spring Festival.

Shelby, a fossa Cryptoptocta ferox, came to the zoo from the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan. Fossa lifespans are unknown in the wild but are known to live to up to 20 years in zoos. Although Shelby looks like a small cat or even a weasel, she is most closely related to a mongoose or civet. The fossa are native only to the island nation of Madagascar off the coast of Africa and are the largest carnivores there. The locals pronounce the name “foo-sa” and “foosh.”

Shelby loves exploring all parts of her new habitat, as the fossas are just as comfortable in trees as they are on the ground. Being the largest predator and very agile in trees, their diets mainly consist of lemurs, but they’ll eat anything from small mammals to fish and birds. The fossa can be extremely smelly since they use scent as their main form of communication and do most of their vocalizing during mating season and pup season. The fossa is classified as vulnerable, with only about 2,500 left in the wilderness. The low numbers are due to loss of habitat, competition for food with introduced species and diseases like rabies, as well as threats from the villagers who see them as vermin. 


Remember to mark your calendar for the “Party for the Planet” Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, April 20, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. This family event will focus on natural resource conservation and the global and local protection of animals and plants. A fun day for children of all ages, with interactive adventures, hands-on activities, exhibits by sustainability-conscious businesses, as well as providing many educational demonstrations like water conservation, beekeeping, and more. Food trucks will also be on-site. 

There are over 200 animal species to enjoy at the zoo. Many of the zoo residents are part of a globally managed program to preserve animals and their habitats. The zoo features several unique species not often seen in facilities of our size, including fossa, red pandas, Malayan tiger, lemurs, and meerkats, as well as many other exciting and interesting mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. 

Party for the Planet tickets are included with General Admission. Tickets are $13 for Adults age 13+, $11 for Seniors age 65+, $8 for Children 5-12, $5 for Children 3-4, and free for Kids 2 and under. The Charles Paddock Zoo is SLO County’s only zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They are open daily and located at Atascadero Lake Park on Highway 41/Morro Road, one mile west of Highway 101. For information, go to charlespaddockzoo.org or call the zoo at (805) 461-5080.

Feature Image: Shelby, a 13-year-old female fossa, came to the Charles Paddock Zoo from the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Photo provided by City of Atascadero