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Hissing cockroaches and a chinchilla

Carlsbad:

If you are driving around the El Camino Real Mall in Carlsbad and you think your eyes are playing tricks on you, they aren't.

That's a traveling zoo tucked next to the loading dock area near Macy's, complete with a Bison named "Baby Bo," llamas, kangaroos, alligators, monkeys, exotic birds, snakes, a chinchilla, a sloth and even hissing cockroaches.

Driven from their 5-acre Fallbrook ranch and animal house by the wildfires Monday afternoon, the owners of Pacific Animal Productions pulled off the 78 freeway seeking shade for their 100 animals.

But when the three-trailer caravan pulled into the parking lot, Westfield mall officials began setting up a temporary animal shelter.

"Before we knew it, they started pulling out electrical cords and water hoses," said Karla Majewski, who owns the zoo, which provides educational programs at schools, fairs and festivals.

"We didn't have any intention of staying here. We came here to stop and regroup. It's almost like they knew we were coming. They didn't blink or flinch."

News of the traveling zoo spread fast and within hours, nearby grocery stores and health-food stores had dropped off food and water for the animals. Every few hours, mall security workers stop by to pick up a new load of animal waste.

In the afternoon, Majewski and her crew of friends and family took the restless animals out of their trailers to stretch their legs and see the sights. For about half an hour, the RV evacuation center became a petting zoo.

"People were wondering what all these crazy critters were doing marching toward them," Majewski said.

-- Dave McKibben

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