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ANIMALS STRUT THEIR STUFF TEACHING ZOO'S FUND-RAISER HELPS FEED THEIR CHARGES.

Byline: Lisa M. Sodders Staff Writer

MOORPARK - For little children raised on ``The Lion King,'' Saturday's ``Feast for the Beasts'' at America's Teaching Zoo was a chance to see exotic animals up close.

Real lions. Real monkeys. A real dromedary. Parrots and an eagle. A regal Bengal tiger. Sheep, pigs, a water buffalo and even a few animals most people have never heard of.

Kellen, 4, and Christian Roy, 3, of Agoura were captivated by the antics of Schmoo, a California sea lion that performed a series of tricks in exchange for squid, smelt and other fishy snacks.

``I think it's great that you can get so close to the animals,'' said their father, Steve Roy, 39. ``That's something you can't really do at the L.A. Zoo. Here, they'll stand right in front of the cage until I pull them away.''

About 175 people toured Moorpark College's zoo Saturday for the annual ``Feast for the Beasts,'' fund-raiser. The event continues today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The zoo, which was started in 1974, is open to the public on weekends. This weekend's fund-raiser is designed to raise funds to feed and care for the animals. Zoo officials also would like to add a marine animal facility to give students more experience.

The zoo currently has 150 exotic birds, mammals and reptiles, which are cared for by the students in the college's Exotic Animal Training Management Program, said Holly Tumas, zoo operations assistant. About 100 students are enrolled in the two-year program.

``Camels. One word: challenging,'' said Courtney Wright, 27, of Simi Valley, a second-year student. ``How do you make 1,400 pounds move if it doesn't want to?''

Wright also showed visitors Matt, a ringtail cat, a nocturnal animal native to California and 12 other states that is related to raccoons. Matt has a bushy, striped tail, beady black eyes and an elegant, foxlike face.

Amber Whitman, 9, of Thousand Oaks, and her sister, Madisen, 6, were fascinated by Clarence, a 500-pound, 82-year-old tortoise from the Galapagos Islands.

Suspecting the girls might have his breakfast of lettuce leaves, Clarence lumbered toward the fence, sending Madisen skipping back to duck behind her mother.

``He's huge and his shell is cool,'' said Madisen.

Caitlin Mack, 4, of Newbury Park was less impressed. ``I like my kitty better.''

Part of the demonstrations Saturday involved behavioral enrichment - giving the animals toys to encourage natural behavior, such as stalking, and stave off boredom.

For one lioness, behavioral enrichment, or BE, involved a cardboard cola box containing rock-dove wings.

``They love to tear the feathers off,'' explained Brianna Murtha, 19, of Moorpark, a first-year student. ``One in a while, we'll find feathers in the cage when we haven't given them any. We also find rat tails - they just caught whatever was scampering through. That's called natural BE.''

Lisa M. Sodders, (818) 713-3663

lisa.sodders(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Mike Christie shows a bald eagle named Ghost during a show at Moorpark College's annual Feast for the Beasts.

(2) Marissa Williams shows an alligator named Happy to visitors at America's Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College.

(3) Sarah Cole shows a boa constrictor named Lizzie to visitors at the Feast for the Beasts this weekend at Moorpark College.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 28, 2004
Words:554
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