From sloths to squirrel monkeys, Sylmar sanctuary rescues and exhibits exotic wildlife

Admissions and tour sales at the Wildlife Learning Center go directly to the care of the animals.
SYLMAR, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Nestled away in an old olive grove, next to a neighborhood in Sylmar, you'll find the Wildlife Learning Center. At this small zoological park, visitors can observe and learn about animals from around the world.

"This started because I always had an intense interest in animals and nature. Ever since I was a child, I was frustrated by people that didn't have the same appreciation for wildlife and nature that I had. So to help them gain that appreciation is something I find really rewarding," said Wildlife Learning Center Director David Riherd.

The learning center has been here for nearly 20 years and it's home to over 100 different species of animals. For the past two years, they only offered small private tours.

"Animals like our squirrel monkeys, they absolutely love attention. It gives them enrichment to see people going around. So, I think it's been a big plus to have people back," said Wildlife Learning Center General Manager Danielle Burns.

"It's been really awesome. We've met all kinds of animals. We go to feed a giraffe and we're learning a ton, so it's been great," said visitor Kathryn Husted.

Many animals at the Wildlife Learning Center have a unique story on how they got here. Some animals, like the sloths, will call this place their forever home.

"Some of them were people's pets that they had illegally. Some are from the wild that now have permanent injuries. And then some of the animals are from other facilities that either didn't have space or just needed to change the situation for them," said Burns.

The learning center is also bringing back its school outreach programs.

"We're getting a lot of interest in school assemblies. We're enforcing what they are learning in the classroom, and we're making it visual and interesting and bringing it to life for them," said Riherd.

The nonprofit says all visitors are welcome to the learning center. Admissions and tour sales help support the animals.

"So just by visiting, you're supporting us. But donations are always appreciated, and they greatly help and they always go directly to the care of the animals," said Riherd.

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