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O.C. Zoo is a haven for all creatures broken, lost

July 28, 2008 |  9:18 am

A_bobcat_now_lives_at_the_orange_coThe Orange County Zoo is not your usual menagerie of lions, tigers and bears. Times staff writer Tony Barboza reports:

There are no majestic animals from the African savanna, no awe-inspiring creatures from Arctic reaches. Rather, here on this 5-acre wooded spread at the base of the Santa Ana Mountains are 60 mostly hard-luck animals who have had run-ins, bad breaks and unfortunate entanglements with humankind.

Visitors to the hard-to-find zoo in Irvine Regional Park in Orange encounter a hobbling bald eagle, a lopsided vulture, a porcupine, four-horned sheep, a raccoon that was the runt of his litter and a potbellied pig that outlived its owner, who died of cancer.

Specializing in animals native to the Southwest and accepting only those that cannot be released into the wild have made the Orange County Zoo a repository for creatures with unusual, harrowing stories, many rooted in California's landscape. And what this ragtag group lacks in exoticism it makes up for in traumatic tales of near death and abandonment.

Its wildcats (that's a bobcat above), birds, reptiles and rodents have been shot, hit by cars, forcibly removed from lakes, had altercations with power lines and been illegally harbored by families.

The aim of keeping them all together is to teach people about the animals they're likely to encounter in the hills, canyons and backyards of Southern California, said zoo manager Donald Zeigler.

Photo credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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