Two self-professed “animal geeks,” David Riherd and Paul Hahn, have been teachers since they were young. Hahn used to hold classes with his friends outdoors teaching them about the animal of the day with the flashcards his mother gave him. When Riherd was in college, he started teaching elementary science classes.
The two started teaching classes together at grade schools and received the nickname “animal guys” from the students. Riherd and Hahn started adopting abandoned animals that was once pets. They never set out to create a sanctuary but, “It found us,” Hahn said.
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The Wildlife Learning Center was founded in Altadena 15 years ago and recently moved to Sylmar. The center provides a unique opportunity for children and those who love wildlife. They also provide presentations in schools’ life science classes to teach kids about biology with live animals and provide a tactile connection with the learning material.
The Wildlife Learning Center has also worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. There was one instance where a terminally ill child with the foundation was able to fulfill her wish and pet a fox because of the Wildlife Learning Center. The center also works with other animal sanctuaries in the area to care for rescued wildlife and abandoned exotic pets.
Hahn and Riherd founded the Wildlife Learning Center to teach kids about wildlife and they found the most rewarding aspect of the center is when they see the look in a child’s eyes when they realize their passion for animals.
“There are some city kids who haven’t been to the zoo or the beach and have isolated lives,” Hahn said. “When these kids come to the learning center, it’s like a whole new world opens up to them and it touches me.”
The center teaches visitors that these animals are important and that they need to be protected for the future. The costs of caring for the wildlife are not cheap. The monthly spending for the center, to maintain the facilities and care for the animals, run somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000. The center has more than 60 different species and 200 individuals including various reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
This Saturday the Wildlife Learning Center is holding a fundraiser from 4:30- 7:30 p.m., giving visitors an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the center’s wildlife. There are a few stations at the center where guests can interact with animals like a two-toed sloth, an owl and a Fennec Fox. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children and $5 for each animal interaction station. For more information on the event and how you can help the Wildlife Learning Center please click here www.wildlifelearningcenter.com.