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4-H'ers walk on the wild side at OKC Zoo

The American of Vinita, Oklahoma

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A group of Oklahoma 4-H'ers had the opportunity to walk on the wild side when they spent the night at the Oklahoma City Zoo recently.

Over 200 youth and adults from 17 counties took part in a statewide 4-H Zoo Snooze. Steve Beck, assistant Extension specialist in the State 4-H Office at Oklahoma State University, said the main purpose of this event was to help promote the companion animal project. This year's theme was Zootastic Careers and focused on the careers available to people who are interested in working at the zoo.

"The program discussed the various careers that are available working at a zoo, from working with the animals as a zoo keeper or veterinarian to working with the vegetation as a groundskeeper or landscape architect," Beck said. "Zoo officials put on a great educational session that included a python, a hedge hog and a chinchilla. The kids really enjoyed being in close proximity to the zoo animals."

Following this informative workshop, the 4-H'ers were able to take a guided nocturnal hike through the zoo. Beck said in an effort to help the club members see the animals better in the dark,' zoo officials had special lights with red lenses that would not frighten the animals and cause them to run away.

"It was really interesting to see all of the animals that are out and about at that time of night, the tigers in particular were very active." Beck said.

Following the nocturnal adventure, the group settled in for a movie and some shut eye.

The next morning the 4-H'ers were able to visit the zoo exhibits again an hour before it opened to the public.

"It was a beautiful morning and it made for a great outing," Beck said. "The animals were all out and about. It was special to see these animals in the morning without the crowds and was enjoyed by all the 4-H youth."

Beck said that through the events of the Zoo Snooze he hopes the participants were encouraged to return to their home counties and take part in the 4-H companion animal program.

The companion animal program primarily is geared toward cats, dogs, rabbits and pocket pets. As with all projects within the 4-H program, the companion animal program fosters all aspects of 4-H, including citizenship, leadership, career development and other skills youth will use throughout their lives.

"The companion animal program teaches the values we teach in the beef and horse projects." he said. "The only difference is we reach a different audience. This is a project any 4-H'er can do, whether they live in an apartment in an urban area, live in a small town or are out on an acreage. The companion animal project will help club members decide which types of pets are a good fit."

Beck said this event was extremely successful and has plans to do it again next year.

For more information about this and other programs offered by the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program, please call 918-253-4332, or visit these web site at

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Original Publication Date: April 26, 2012

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