wild teachers

These animals come to us because they can never survive in the wild. They were abused, abandoned, injured or born in captivity. The animals care is of upmost importance to us as they are with us for life. They become Wild Teachers in our educational programs as their stories are filled with a message of caring, empathy and hope.

Animals and humans share a deep history. Depicted on cave walls tens of thousands of years ago and in current bedtime stories, animals have been our teachers, bringers of myths, parables, and cultural understandings. They also have been teachers of science and guides through the elaborate interrelationships between all of life. They help us bring science alive!


andean condor

Vultur gryphus

Veedor has been described as a “living mood ring” because his head and neck change color—from a pale blush to dark red—depending on his mood.

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Veedor, whose natural habitat would be anywhere along the range of the Andes in South America, came to Wildlife Associates through the Species Survival Program in LA. Their numbers are in decline through loss of habitat, secondary poisoning, or persecution by farmers, who mistakenly view the carrion-eating birds as a threat to their livestock.


american alligator

Alligator mississippiensis

Tally’s favorite food is chicken. And, since the American alligator has the strongest bite-force of any living animal, it doesn’t take her long to eat one.

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Tally, relatively mellow and small, is the only one of our three alligators to travel to our wildlife presentations, where she is a huge hit in our “Creepy Critters” program. She was born on an alligator farm, and spent some time at the SF Zoo before coming to Wildlife Associates. Just as she would in her native wetlands habitat, Tally spends most of her day basking in the water, but she will venture out to investigate any change in her enclosure.



Nasua nasua

Coatimundis are bold, intelligent members of the raccoon family found in the rainforests of Central and South America. Due to the destruction of their rainforest habitat, these adaptable animals have migrated to the Southwestern United States.

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Interestingly, the females and young are social and live in family groups but the adult males are eventually kicked out of the group and live solitary lives.

Tupi was born at a wildlife facility in Texas in 2015. He loves to rub new smells into his tail, demonstrating a natural behavior which would allow him to camouflage his own scent to stay safe in the wild. His favorite treats are bananas and avocados, which can often be found smeared all over his nose.


red fox

Vulpus vulpus

The distinctive mouse-pounce of the red fox—a quick leap into the air to land on the unsuspecting mouse—is both functional and fun to watch.

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Inali was found, alone and scared after a terrible storm, as a very young kit. Because the red fox is an introduced species, she could not be released, and spent two years as an education ambassador at the Fresno Wildlife Rehab center. Since coming to Wildlife Associates in 2014, she has become a popular wild teacher. At home in the Sanctuary, she loves when the team visits and enjoys going on walks. While she does an occasional mouse pounce, she has yet to actually catch one!


african serval

Leptailurus serval

Zulu was named for one of Africa's native languages. His favorite pastime is hunting and "catching" his toys and then dunking them in his water bowl.

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African servals have the biggest ears and longest legs in proportion to their body of any cat. They are also one of the only wild cats to have both spots and stripes. Servals can jump 8–10 feet vertically from a seated position. Because of this ability, they are able to catch birds in mid-flight, making these cats extremely efficient predators. They catch their prey nearly half of the time—an average of 48-62%—a higher success rate than most species of wild cat.


arctic fox

Alopex lagopus

With their compact bodies, dense fur, and extra-furry feet, Arctic foxes are extremely well adapted to live in subzero climate.

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Their fur becomes white in winter to blend in against the ice and snow. In summer, they shed this white fur and have shorter bluish-gray or brown fur to help them camouflage. They are efficient hunters, catching rodents, birds, fish and young seals. They also eat vegetation and berries, and in desperate times will follow polar bears and survive by scavenging on carrion

Suka came to us from another wildlife facility, where he was handled by strangers who paid to take pictures with him. As a result, he does not like to be touched and has a difficult time learning to trust people. He is, however, a curious and busy little animal. We offer him lots behavioral enrichment to play with and tear up, and he loves to bury any treats that are inside to snack on later.


spectacled owl

Pulsatrix perspicillata

We are lucky to have Arabella, who came to us from a zoo in Arizona, a surprise hatchling whose parents hadn’t produced eggs in years.

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Not only is she an incredible-looking owl, her personality shines through. She constantly surveys her surroundings with those huge yellow eyes, whether it is when she is out on a walk or at a presentation. Her vocalizations are so interesting, sounding like a low purr.

Found in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, these owls are named for the white feathers around their eyes. Fledglings first leave the nest at about 5–6 weeks, before they can fully fly, which may not be until they are a year old. During that time, they start hunting but remain dependent upon their parents until they can fly away to establish their own territories. In addition to the typical small mammals, they will also hunt for birds, bats, large insects and amphibians—even kinkajous and young sloths. Sadly, their numbers are decreasing due to habitat loss and deforestation.

tahoe & tucson

grey foxes

Urocyon cinereoargenteus

Tahoe and Tucson spend most of their time together. But you might think “Fox in a Box” was written about Tucson—he likes to curl up in a good one.

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Grey Foxes are one of only two canids that have the ability to climb trees. They have strong, partially retractable, hooked claws that allow them to scramble up trees. They descend by jumping from limb to limb or by slowly working their way backwards down the trunk. They like to make their dens as high as 30' off the ground in the crevices of trees or rocks.

Tahoe loves smells, and if he finds a good one he will roll around in it. Tucson likes to hunt birds. Both love to bask in the sunlight.


african crested porcupine

Hystrix cristata

Kankoe (pronounced KAN-koh-ee) is the Swahili word for turkey, and this African Crested Porcupine is so-named because she was born on Thanksgiving.

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The African Crested Porcupine is nocturnal, but Kankoe will come out during the day for scratches and walks. Just as she would in the wild, Kankoe likes to dig deep holes; in her native habitat she would rest in one with just her knife-like quills showing, protecting her even in her sleep. Kankoe’s favorite toys are stuffed animals and phone books, which she likes to shred and strew all over her enclosure. It is not possible to determine a porcupine’s gender just by visual examination, so we only suspect Kankoe is a she!

uncle fester

prehensile-tailed skink

Corucia zebrata

Smuggled from the rainforest to be sold on the black market, Uncle Fester was discovered en route to San Francisco and confiscated at the airport.

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The Giant Solomon Islands prehensile-tailed skink is the largest of all the more than 1000 species of skinks. This species can only be found in the rainforests on the Solomon Islands, live in family groups and can become very territorial. They feast on various plant sources, primarily leaves, and are content among the trees among the understory of the rainforest. These lizards are ovoviviparous, a form of reproduction in which embryos develop inside soft eggs but remain inside the mother until they are ready to hatch.