Private tours of the Wildlife Learning Center, a local zoo and rescue center, are continuing and are quite successful, according to co-founder David Riherd. General admission is also available, but hours are restricted, he said.
“We started offering tours so people could be comfortable visiting us during the pandemic, and the tours have been a great success,” Riherd said.
Riherd and fellow co-founder Paul Hahn began modestly in 1993 rescuing pets and starting animal enrichment programs in schools. To date their website https://wildlifelearningcenter.org says they have conducted more than 22,000 teaching missions. Many of those efforts have been with traditionally underserved communities, he noted.
The pair opened the current site, 16027 Yarnell Street in Sylmar, which is now home to about 100 animals, in 2007. The site houses rescues, displaced and zoo-born animals who otherwise would have no life -long home. Mammals at the WLC include servals, bobcats, squirrel monkeys and hedgehogs. There are animals here from all over the world including birds, amphibians, arthropods and reptiles.
The pandemic has limited general admission to Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am to 5 pm with advance reservations required. Tours, however, are offered seven days a week with advanced reservations. Tours are guided by staff biologists and masks and social distancing are still required. General admittees walk the grounds without assigned guides.
Among the rescued animals is Denali, a bald eagle. Denali was rescued with a broken wing and rehabilitated. But because of arthritis the bird was unable to be released in the wild and now has a permanent home at WLC.
To see Denali, the sloths, bobcats, servals and alligators on a more intimate level it is necessary to book a tour. WLC offers 45 and 90 minute guided tours for a limited number of people “creating automatic social distancing.” Riherd said.
In addition to tours and admissions the WLC also offers various events depending on the season and Covid restrictions. There are also ways to “adopt” animals at the center and other forms of donation to help support the animals welfare and provide funds for the “wish list” of structural improvement under consideration.
For further information or to book a tour or general admission call 818 362 8711 or visit for more information,