A Paso Robles-based nonprofit is shifting gears amid the pandemic. KSBY’s Neil Hebert has more on how Zoo to you is adapting.
“In March, within three days, we saw our calendar go completely blank,” said Lisa Jackson, the assistant director for Conservation Ambassadors.
“Adapt or die” is Zoo to You’s new motto: They took the former and ran with it.
“(It’s) ‘You to Zoo’ and not ‘Zoo to You’ for a while until we get back into the schools,” said David Jackson, CEO of Conservation Ambassadors. “The most important thing is for kids to have a connection with nature; that’s what we’re all about.”
The nonprofit is now offering animal encounters for groups with hoppy kangaroos, cute otters, curious lemurs, and alligators, among other animals.
“You can actually come out here with your family; you can have a closeup, touchy-feely interaction with these animals and make that connection to nature that just can’t be made any other way,” said David.
About 150, exotic, rescue animals are taken care of at Zoo to You, each one of them as friendly as the next, but maybe none as nice as Wesley the Capybara.
“When you come here, the animals are going to come right up to you because we’ve taught them that everyone is wonderful, and that’s the experience that we want people to have,” said David.
The Jacksons say meeting the animals is one of the few ways kids actually experience nature.
“A lot of kids now aren’t growing up catching crawdads and picking up worms. They’re on their screens,” said David. “We’re often the only connection they can get to nature, so it’s super important to us to make sure that we see as many students as we can each year.”
“Both of us have spent our entire lives caring for animals. I started when I was 14 and same with David,” said Lisa.
While Zoo to You hopes they can get back to educating in schools across California soon, for now, they’re content with bringing “You to Zoo.”
“It’s kind of like a backstage pass because we’re not open to the public; we never have been, and we never will be,” said David. “During this very difficult time, this is the way we’re supporting the animals and taking care of all their needs. (It’s) by you guys having this amazing experience and being able to help us out at the same time.”
Zoo to You is booking tours and encounters seven days a week. Click here for more information.