Spectators watched animals open wrapped holiday gifts provided by the community

ATASCADERO — Local animal lovers of all ages headed out to Charles Paddock Zoo on Saturday, Dec. 18, to participate in the Zoo’s 14th annual Holiday Magic event. From 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., spectators could watch the animals rip into their beautifully wrapped holiday gifts provided by the community.

“This is a fun event for us [the Zoo]. What it is, is a chance for the [Zoo] keepers to [get to] think out of the box a little bit. Sometimes they come up with some pretty crazy ideas for the presents for the animals,” said Charles Paddock Zoo’s Director, Alan Baker.

Holiday Magic is a busy day for Charles Paddock Zoo, usually bringing in close to 1,000 patrons. And that’s no surprise since the Zoo’s animals are usually fed off exhibit, or where it isn’t easy for people coming to the Zoo to watch them eat. But at the Holiday Magic event, there’s a full schedule provided, so you know precisely when each of the animals will receive their presents.

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“We have it scheduled that the tiger’s going to get his present at a certain time. Usually, he winds up ripping it all apart. So, it’s a little more spectacular than [him] just walking over and eating something,” continued Baker.

The animals were as excited as the people watching as they dug into their gifts provided by the public and members of Charles Paddock Zoo.

“What we do is, we have a wishlist on our website, and people can choose to purchase a gift if they want,” added Baker. “Usually, we put that list [for Holiday Magic] up around, right after our Halloween event. But we have a wishlist that’s out there [all] year long for little extra things. A lot of times, they’re special things. And people can if they want to, donate directly to the animal [of their choice].”

Each and every animal at the Zoo is gifted an item or fun snack, even if they’re not on the schedule for the day.

“Everybody will get something special today. But, if it’s a Dart Frog, it may just be something extra. Nobody would really see that, but the Dart Frog will appreciate it,” Baker said with a laugh.

While the event keeps the Zoo’s animals at the forefront, there’s other magical things to experience while you’re there. Including an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus themselves. A steady line of excited kids were waiting to meet them!

“This is one of those things where we like to be able to provide something special for the people. A lot of our people that are here today are members. You know, that’s a great Christmas gift. We sell a ton of those [memberships] this time of year. If you become a zoo member, you pay one price, and you get to come every day if you want. So it’s a great bargain,” said Baker.

Charles Paddock Zoo is open all year long, excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. To see the year-round animal wishlist, purchase a membership, or find out more information, visit: charlespaddockzoo.org