Carmel Magazine

Summer/Fall 2020

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C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S U M M E R / F A L L 2 0 2 0 105 Butch, an African Elephant, Azizi the water buffalo and Jazmine the zebra, are just three of the many animals enjoying one of several unique multi-species habitats at Monterey's first zoo. utch the elephant stands 10 feet tall and his long trunk—with its astounding dex- terity—makes his height seem almost insignificant. His eyelashes are the length of an adult's hand, his demeanor that of a cat lounging in the sun. He eagerly, yet gently, shovels carrots into his impressive mouth while his best pal, Jasmine the zebra, watches. Butch is one of two elephants that live at Monterey County's first zoo, a sprawling facility that's brought founder Charlie Sammut's vision to life. Sammut's accred- itation by the Zoological Association of America was granted in June of 2020. It's not that merito- rious achievement, but the connections being fostered, that makes Sammut most proud. "Zoos are supposed to make animals impor- tant to people," he says. "That's our purpose. That is what we're here for. We want people to leave here feeling the animals are worth contributing to, worth protecting." The zoo is a dream come to life for Sammut, a well-known animal trainer, conservationist, and advocate. "It took seven years of begging for money by fundraising, then spending it as fast as we could get it to show progress, then still fundraising," Sammut explains of bringing his $7 million project to fruition. There were almost no labor costs because Sammut has lain stake in the zoo literally and figuratively: he and two other men installed every foot of wooden fence that lines much of the 50-acre property. They poured every slab of cement. Only one external compa- ny was used to supply the tall fencing. It's a breezy but vibrantly sunny day on River Road between Monterey and Salinas where the Monterey Zoo (formerly known as Wild Things) is B

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