Charles Paddock Zoo

A Wild Adventure at the Charles Paddock Zoo

Howdy, welcome to the Charles Paddock Zoo, the home of the coolest and cuddliest creatures in Atascadero, California. This zoo has a wild and woolly history that dates back to 1955 when it was founded by a fellow named Charles “Chuck” Paddock. Chuck was a park ranger with a heart of gold who had a knack for healing injured animals. He started out nursing critters back to health in a county animal shelter, but before he knew it, he was running his own zoo. By 1959, he had collected over 125 birds and mammals, and the place was hopping.

Well, Chuck’s wild zoo was growing at an alarming rate, and before he knew it, his animal posse was feeling cramped The zoo was moved to its current spot, nestled right next to Atascadero Lake Park just off Highway 41, in 1963. The zoo was then called Atascadero Children’s Zoo, but when the city of Atascadero took over management in 1979, they decided to honor Chuck’s legacy by renaming it the Charles Paddock Zoo in 1980.

The Charles Paddock Zoo has all kinds of animals that will make your heart melt. From red pandas to lemurs to zebras, this zoo has got it all. You can even get up close and personal with the animals by taking part in the zoo’s animal encounters or keeper talks. Trust me, it’s a hoot!

But the star of the show is the Thelma Vetter Red Panda Experience, which opened in 2019. This exhibit is named after a generous donor who helped make it possible. The exhibit is home to a whole family of these adorable red pandas, along with Asian rat snakes and some of the most colorful birds you’ve ever seen.

Now, the Charles Paddock Zoo is more than just a place to gawk at cute critters. They’re serious about conservation and education, too. The folks operating and volunteering at the zoo try to help bring awareness to endangered species. They do it by offering education at the zoo, school field trips, and community outreach events. You might just learn something while you’re there!

Of course, the zoo is constantly updating and improving. Although it is mostly run on donations and volunteers, it has gotten some facelifts through the years, with new roofs on buildings, repaving, new public fencing, and all sorts of other smaller projects.

So there you have it, folks. The Charles Paddock Zoo is a place for anyone who loves creatures great and small. Whether you’re a local looking to entertain the kiddos, or a tourist cruising through the north county of San Luis Obispo, this zoo is the perfect pit stop for a healthy dose of cuteness. With critters ranging from the funny Iti monkeys, the rare Malayan tiger, and the Aldabra giant tortoise they have on site, this place has something for everyone. So come on down and get your fill of four-legged, feathered, and scaley friends!

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