The Wildlife World Zoo is open after almost five months of being closed because of COVID-19. To celebrate this event, I interviewed Mickey Ollson, the founder of Wildlife World Zoo.
Ollson wanted a zoo from the time he was very young. When he was 10, he drew a map of his zoo. He had always loved animals, since he grew up on a farm with all sorts of farm animals, birds, and the family’s dogs. He even once had a pet alligator!
Ollson taught school in Glendale, but he never gave up on wanting to have a zoo. After 20 years of teaching, Ollson finally got his zoo. Ollson’s favorite animals are birds and hoofed animals, like giraffes. When Ollson was younger, he went to a zoo where they had a Patas monkey. Ollson says that he promised himself that he was going to have Patas monkeys in his zoo, and he does.
He says that his favorite part of running a zoo is that something new happens every day. He says that the hardest part is not the animals, but the people. There are a lot of people to work with, including the government for things like permits.
Zoos like the Wildlife World Zoo used to import animals from other countries by capturing them in the wild. Ollson says that most animals in modern zoos were born and raised in captivity. When my parents were younger, zoos might have looked like prisons for the animals—they were enclosed in cells because people believed that the animals couldn’t handle outdoor climates. Today, the Wildlife World Zoo makes habitats look like an animal’s natural environment. Ollson says, “If it comes from a forest, we try to simulate a forest; if it comes from a jungle, we simulate a jungle…”
The Wildlife World Zoo has a large staff of dieticians and veterinarians to keep the animals healthy. As a result, these animals will live longer than their counterparts in the wild. These animals have no predators, and they get special diets and good medical care. The animals are entertained by watching the humans that come to look at them, just like we are entertained by watching them. While the zoo was shut down due to COVID-19, the animals became even more excited to see the keepers, and made noises of excitement.
In addition to displaying animals, zoos also help conserve animals. The Wildlife World Zoo and other zoos breed endangered species and release them into the wild. The California Condor was saved from extinction by zoos. It can now be seen at the Grand Canyon, and in California.