If you can recall visiting zoos and aquariums a few decades back, you likely remember a distinct dividing line between the animals you saw splashing in pools or snoozing on boulders and the care and feeding of those animals, those necessary daily duties that happened off-stage and tucked well behind-the-scenes.
That's changed, and is changing. Many "back walls" have been raised in a plethora of public-facing institutions, and animal parks are among the ones at the forefront of this movement. Look to the Walnut Creek Wildlife Hospital, which gives summer visitors a view to beastie check-ups, and the kitchen at the Santa Barbara Zoo, which provides visitors a peek at the residents' meals for the day.
The Molina Animal Care Center at the Aquarium of the Pacific is another such "open-wall" area. The center "provides enhanced healthcare to our animals as well as opportunities for our guests to view veterinary medicine in action." Quarantine areas, high-powered microscopes, x-ray technology, and other medical necessities fill out the 14,000-square-foot space, which debuted in 2010.
Interactive kiosks help visitors get up-to-speed on how marine animals are tended to in the center while a staffer explains a live procedure once every day. There are viewing windows, which may give you a view to "an otter getting its teeth cleaned."
What to do, where to go and what to see
That? We want to see. Like, a lot.
And just ahead for the Aquarium? The 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, Sept. 6 is a biggie, and takes in some of the pretty coastline around the institution. But, before that, two baby penguins, born behind-the-scenes, will make their waddly debut at the June Keyes Penguin Habitat on Wednesday, Aug. 27.