Cookies and critters are among children's favorite things, and on Saturday, Sept. 22, little ones can get a bellyful of both at the Santa Ana Zoo's Cookie Safari.
Upon arrival, young adventurers will be given a "passport" to visit the 13 "cookie stations" scattered throughout the zoo grounds. At each, children can sample goodies from cookie giants such as Pepperidge Farms, Sunshine and Nabisco. After adding a stamp to their passports, they will wind past some of the zoo's 350 exhibited animals to the next outpost. With a full passport (and a fuller tummy), children will return to the zoo gift shop and receive a prize.
According to Jacqueline Beurskens, program director of the Friends of the Santa Ana Zoo, the facility's support group, this fourth annual event serves as both a fund-raiser and a "friend-raiser."
"The zoo is 38 years old, yet a lot of people in this area don't know we're here," Beurskens said. "So we came up with a family event that would be fun for everyone and help raise community awareness." Last year's Cookie Safari attracted about 3,000 visitors and raised $19,000 for the zoo's general fund, she added.
Currently, only one-third of the zoo's 20-acre site is dedicated to animal exhibits, but plans are in the works for a large-scale expansion and improvements. One of the items on the drawing board is Monkey Island, an open-air display featuring colobus monkeys and tiny duiker antelope. The zoo's collection now features 16 species of monkeys, as well as mountain lions, birds, reptiles and a small children's area with barnyard animals. Larger, more exotic animals will be added when space and funding allows.
In the coming years, organizers also plan to do away with the outdated enclosures which house many of the animals. "Whenever possible, we're trying to get our animals out of cages and into more natural settings" similar to those at the much-larger San Diego Zoo, Beurskens said.
At the Sept. 22 event, a handful of furry and feathered folk will be brought out of their cages for a little kid-to-critter contact. Zoo personnel will answer questions and supervise handling of the animals. Also scheduled are animal shows, face painting, a kiddie train and carousel and entertainment by clowns and jugglers. The zoo's playground will also be open throughout the day. Food and drink will be sold, and Rico Garcia and the Local Boys will play Latin jazz from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Cookie Safari.
Saturday, Sept. 22.
Santa Ana Zoo, 1801 E. Chestnut St., Santa Ana.
From 1st Street, turn south on Elk Lane then east on Chestnut.
$8 for adults, $4 for children ages 3 to 12. Under 3 admitted free.
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