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5 Places in L.A. Where You Go to Get Up Close and Personal With Wild Animals

September 27, 2015 by Virginia Isaad

When you think ‘wildlife’ in Los Angeles it might just conjure an image of an altercation in the middle of traffic, but alas, there is real wildlife in our midst.

And for those who would rather get a more personal experience with the animals, L.A. has some great options, a few of which we’ve cataloged below.

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The following organizations all have one thing in common- they help animals. These organizations are sanctuaries/learning centers so there’s the added bonus of knowing your donation (ticket price) helps sustain them. Some of these are further away than others but you’re sure to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience that you probably didn’t know was possible in L.A.

Enjoy your trip from the concrete jungle to a real jungle or farm or… you get the picture.

1. Gentle Barn

Like the name implies, this place is a haven for farm animals- 170 of them to be exact. All have been rescued from abuse or neglect and now get to live out the rest of their lives at the six-acre property in Santa Clarita. You can rub the bellies of the pigs, hug a cow, and hang out with llamas and goats who appreciate the love after having lived through difficult circumstances. The Gentle Barn is a favorite among celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, who featured them on her show. Got 15 minutes to spare? Check out this video about the rescue of the cow Dudley, who had his foot severed, and witness the amazing work they do. Tickets must be purchased in advance and visits are on an hourly basis on Sundays only.

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2. Wildlife Learning Center

The center is home to a bald eagle, a blind owl and squirrel monkeys among other animals.  They hold 50 different species of animals with Zeus, the blind owl, being one of the most popular as guests have commented on his eyes looking “celestial constellations.” The center is open to the public with trainer talks available every hour during which guests can learn about and interact with a certain animal. If you want a more intimate experience, they offer several one-on-one dates with animals including the American Alligator, sloths, and a 16-foot, 100 pound python.

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Baby Chompers ❤️#americanalligator #wildlifelearningcenter #animaleducation #animalsanctuary #babyanimals

A photo posted by wildlifelearningcenter (@wildlifelearningcenter) on

3. Gibbon Conservation Center

They’re apes and they sing so it’s kinda like a Disney movie come to life. The “songbirds” of the primate family, as they are known, are endangered and  considered to be some of the world’s greatest acrobats. The conservation center is the only institution in the world that houses and breeds all four genera of gibbon. However, unlike the other centers listed, they do not allow you to get personal but hey, you can still get up close to the rarest apes in the Western hemisphere. They’re open for public every Saturday & Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to noon, with tours available throughout that time.

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4. The Shambala Preserve

Though she’s famous for starring in Hitchcock’s classic “The Birds,” Tippi Hedren is wild about exotic cats so much so that she founded the ROAR Foundation that supports the Shambala Preserve. The center is home to more than 30 big cats including tigers, spotted leopards, cougars, and bobcats, all endangered or threatened species. It is open to the public one weekend a month by advance reservation only and it’s a bit of a drive but the three-hour “safari” is well worth it.

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5. Wildlife Waystation

The 160-acre sanctuary is home to 62 lions and has the largest chimpanzee colony in the western hemisphere with almost 50 chimpanzees. The downside is they’re not open to the public, the upside is you can still visit the animals through their “Safari Dinner” option open for birthday events or a fancy dinner date with friends.

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Where do you go in L.A. when you want to get in touch with nature or wildlife? Let us know in the comments below!

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