Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 5:09 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Big Changes Are Afoot at the Santa Barbara Zoo

New exhibit will put the spotlight on the Golden State's own endangered animals.

[Editor’s note: I recently had the privilege of sitting in on Annette Bannister’s writing classes for home-schooled students held at the Goleta Valley Community Center. The 12 students — sixth- through eighth-graders — were quite accomplished writers and I was impressed by the maturity and range of their young voices. They were all attentive and polite kids, too.

We discussed some pretty complex issues, such as why there’s a separation between straight news and opinion, the need for an editorial board, and how best to structure an editorial. The discussions were spirited and everyone spoke up. The kids also peppered me with the more mundane but often vexing questions, such as how you use a second name reference when writing about a husband and wife. During one class, we made a field trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo where the students observed Noozhawk’s Rob Kuznia interview animal care supervisor Michele Green for a story on gorillas. One of their assignments was to write an editorial on the merits of home schooling; you read four of them earlier this week.

Over the next few days we’ll be publishing some of the news and feature stories written by these students — often collaboratively. I think you’ll be as impressed as I was and I hope you’ll take the time to comment on them. Remember, these are sixth- and seventh-graders and one eighth-grader.

Now, to answer your follow-up questions, “What about my kid?” and “How about my school?” In case you hadn’t noticed, Noozhawk is all about community journalism and we’re proud to have so many of you contribute to our coverage. E-mail me at [email protected] and I’d be happy to discuss how we might get your child involved, as well.

Thank you.

— William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk publisher]

The Santa Barbara Zoo is renovating this year — but what exactly is going on with the exhibits, and when will it be finished for good? Bear the inconveniences patiently, and the results may be quite worth it.

The zoo’s largest and most important project is the California Trails. This exhibit will contain endangered animals — not from the other side of the world, but from our own home state, California, including California condors, desert tortoises, Channel Island foxes and bald eagles. The zoo staff expects it to open in early 2009.

The tortoises, foxes and eagles are all at the zoo already, waiting for California Trails to be completed. The desert tortoises are in a different, temporary exhibit, but the foxes are in a breeding pen away from visitors, and the eagles can only be viewed from the train ride. The condors are not at the zoo yet.

The old playground, which was inside the California Trails site, has been relocated to accommodate the tortoises. The playground would have been too noisy for the condors, which will be adjacent to the tortoises.

“The condors need quieter neighbors,” said Michele Green, the zoo’s animal care supervisor.

The lorikeet exhibit, Lorikeet Landing, will be closed until the end of 2008, because all paths leading to the exhibit are under construction, making it unsafe for guests to visit them. The exhibit itself is not undergoing any changes.

“We have put up visual barriers to limit any stress to the birds, but they all appear to be doing well,” said Green.

The gorilla exhibit has also just undergone some minor changes, and has been available to the public since mid-April. Most changes were structural, including more earthquake-proof buildings, but the gorillas are enjoying munching on some new plants that were just added.

“We continually change small things to the exhibit on a regular basis,” Green said.

All the animals that are within sight range of the constructions have visual barriers to prevent stress.

Only the elephants were reported to react in any way. When a truck was nearby, they felt the vibrations and made low and deep vocalizations from inside their trunks, said Green. Other than that, they went about their day, and the zoo staff observed no changes in their eating habits or behavior.

“They were not stressed in any way,” said Green.

Homaira Zaman, an eighth-grade home-school student, and Mikaela Ryan, a sixth-grade home-school student, are Noozhawk interns.

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