Merced County Times Newspaper
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Times Photos by Beverly Barela

It’s almost time for Zoo Camp at Applegate Park Zoo

Zoo campers ages 6 through 9 will have the opportunity to enjoy the Applegate Park Zoo at 1045 W. 25th Street in Merced from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, from July 8 through July 12.

A second session of zoo camp for ages 10 through 12 is scheduled for July 15 through 19.

There are registration forms available at the Zoo’s Gift Shop, and the fees can be paid there as well.

The Times interviewed Veronica Mathis, President of the Merced Zoological Society, the organization which puts on Zoo Camp every year.

“The theme this year is the Jungle,” she said.

The zoo staff is preparing a jungle scene to go along with the motif.

Describing the camp, Mathis said, “The kids are given a healthy snack and a juice in the morning.  For every day of the week, we have something different. There is a Mammal Day, a Bird Day, a Reptile Day, and Friday is Fun Friday. On Fun Friday, Josh Moreno, the zookeeper, brings in some of the animals they can pet.”

She continued, “Monday is the day the kids get to know each other. The campers get their t-shirts and make their name tags, and we do some arts and crafts. The kids get a tour of the zoo by the Zookeeper.  They take a quiz after the tour, and the one with the best score gets to pick a gift first from a table.”

“We will have interesting guest speakers. Julie Bostdorf, a volunteer, does Mammal Day. We usually have Madeleine Yancey from San Luis Wildlife Refuge in Los Banos who talks about birds, and Mary Morgan of Merced, who used to work at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, usually talks about snakes and how they shed their skin and things they do.

“From Pets Mart, we have Por Zue, who talks about lizards and brings a bearded dragon on a collar and talks about it.

“The guest speakers bring things down to the kids’ level so they understand.”

Explaining other activities and entertainment during camp, Mathis said, “I usually read the book, ‘Do Animals Have Feelings Too?’”

She exclaimed, “The kids love Walking On Eggs. I ask someone to get on each side for support and they hold each child up.  I have three crates of raw eggs stacked in front of  each other. On each end of the egg, the egg is harder and it doesn’t crack so all the eggs are placed in the same direction, with the tips up. The kids walk, and it doesn’t crack the eggs. The other kids are watching the kids’ feet as they walk to see if the eggs are going to break. Some of the kids watching are afraid that they’re going to break the eggs and get egg yolks on their feet, but when they see that the eggs don’t crack, they want to try it.

Mathis added, “We put food in shoe boxes for the bears and I put honey on top of them, and they tear into it. That’s entertaining for the kids.

“They can watch the raccoon catch fish, and they get their pictures taken with the tortoise and they can put it in their journal, which they write in every day.

“We make bird feeders with peanut butter and they can take them home for the wild birds.”

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