Contributing Editor Dr. Jordan Schaul introduces a new series of articles showcasing Orange County Zoo’s (OC Zoo’s) native wildlife ambassadors, which represent indigenous species of the Southwest.
When a colleague of mine—another Zoo Curator at the Oklahoma City Zoo learned of my new post as the Curator of Zoo Operations for the Orange County Zoo via Facebook, he said, “the OC Zoo is one of California’s best kept secrets among zoos.” It is truly a gem within the 60,000 acre Orange County Park system.
Few people know of this community wildlife rescue center nestled between the regional zoos in San Diego and Los Angeles in the city of Orange, California. The OC Zoo is located in Irvine Regional Park, which also boasts horse stables, a train and natural spaces with beautiful natural water features surrounded by Oak and Sycamore trees.
When it comes to zoo curator positions, which are few and far between, most qualified candidates are willing to relocate to just about anywhere. For instance, I moved from Washington D.C. to Alaska. Of course, I’m a bear guy and so the opportunity to relocate and move to bear country was an easy call. Although my stint at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center was most rewarding, I had long had my sights set on relocating back to Southern California.
The competition for zoo keepers at California zoos is remarkably stiff with hundreds of applicants applying for any one position. So when I made it through two rounds of interviews at the relatively new OC Zoo, I was more than ecstatic.
The Orange County Zoo is not only a sanctuary for injured and orphaned wildlife, it is a resource for park rangers and other county personnel because it focuses on species native to the Southwestern US.
Donald Zeigler, the Zoo’s Director says, “the zoo offers an experience to both park staff and park visitors which complements their visits to wildlife reserves and other recreational areas in our park community and generates a renewed respect for native species.
Did you know that beavers walk plantigrade just like bears! This means they are flat-footed and their entire foot, not just their toes, touch the ground as they walk. Come out to the OC Zoo and watch Betty the beaver get some exercise and enrichment by walking with keepers around the zoo. Don’t worry she is escorted on a leash; we hope to leash train Buckley as well.