Grant helps fund aviary upgrade

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TALK TO THE ANIMALS—Kyle Ford holds Peaches, a Moluccan cockatoo, during a past event hosted by America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, which recently received a $30,000 grant from the Ventura County Community Foundation to provide an updated aviary structure for the zoo’s parrots. Acorn file photo

Moorpark College Foundation recently received a $30,000 grant from the Ventura County Community Foundation to fund the final phase of the Alumni Aviary at America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College.

The funding will allow the zoo to purchase a large triple aviary structure to provide housing for the birds needing to move into updated enclosures.

The foundation conducted an Animal Welfare Needs Assessment for Ventura County to inform planned grant making. The study revealed a wide range of needs for animal welfare services and facilities in Ventura County.

Mara Rodriguez, zoo development coordinator at America’s Teaching Zoo, said the first phase of the project was the construction of new aviaries for birds of prey.

The second phase, completed in mid-February, provides new housing for about half of the zoo’s parrots.

The third phase, which will be funded by the grant, will provide new areas for the remaining parrots. All are surrendered pets from residents of Ventura County and beyond, said Rodriguez.

“Our parrot family includes macaws, Amazons and cockatoos, many of whom have lived with us for upwards of 25 years,” Rodriguez said.

She said the aviary upgrade project will directly address the need to provide new housing to the zoo’s parrot population.

“Unlike the rest of our animal population, bird species were not a USDA regulated animal group. That will change starting next year. Although our current parrot housing is adequate, we are motivated to make changes that will surpass what is considered minimum requirements.

“Our parrots currently live in wire mesh enclosures with wooden heat boxes. This housing is not the standard we want to teach our students, who go on to work in the most modern zoos in the country. It is also incongruent with the evolution of America’s Teaching Zoo and what we want our guest experience to be,” she said.

She said the project will allow the parrots to be front and center when it comes to the visitor experience.

“Modernization brings more exposure, resources and contributions. This project would directly support the individual needs of our parrots,” Rodriguez said.

The zoo also supports the Exotic Animal Training and Management program as a living classroom housing 125 animals. America’s Teaching Zoo is the only public zoo in Ventura County. The zoo is available for school field trips, summer camps, private parties and special events.

This story was originally published in the Moorpark Acorn.

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