Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
James Young, Pacific Animal Productions zookeeper, holds Lily the spider monkey at the San Mateo County Fair.
A corner of the San Mateo County Fair grounds looks like it’s been transformed into a rain forest wonderland, particularly when you see a spider monkey flying into the arms of Pacific Animal Productions zookeeper James Young.
There are low-hanging nets that mimic a jungle canopy, a small pond housing an alligator and walls of trickling water surrounding a variety of macaws and parrots perched on eye-level branches. This scene sections off a truly unique corner of the indoor building against its neighboring displays of classic cars and clothing vendors.
This is the third year the Pacific Animal Productions has housed this surreal spot at the San Mateo County Fair. Children flock with their parents to marvel at animals typically unseen outside a zoo.
Lily, a 2-year-old spider monkey, was taken in by the Pacific Animal Productions zoo after her original owners illegally adopted her unaware of the tremendous care it takes to own a wild animal, Young said.
“We are a rescue program. We get a lot of animals from people who can just no longer take care of them; like macaws, they don’t realize they can live 80 years and they move into an apartment where they can’t have them. So they bring their animals to us and we go to schools and educate them,” Young said.
Young stresses the extreme care it takes to own wild animals and how, regardless of their undeniably cute appearance, they’re not meant to be domestic pets.
“So kids, don’t go asking your parents for a spider monkey,” Young said.
As Lily rambunctiously bounces back and forth across the stage, hanging and swinging by her tail, Young speaks about her physical evolution. He shows the spectators how Lily’s species no longer has opposable working thumbs, but how her tail serves as a fifth arm. The children see firsthand her unique physicality as she grips and hangs on Young’s hand by just the tip of her tail.
“A lot of kids, especially with the economy being so bad and how it is, they don’t get to go to the zoo and see all of these things up close and personal and it’s a lot different from when you’re feet away from them,” Young said.
Lisa Marie Rico attended the fair with her husband and 5-year-old son for the first time in four years. She was drawn from San Jose to enjoy the weather, the music, the food and the activities provided by the reasonably priced fair, Rico said. But one of her favorite exhibits was the Pacific Animal Productions replicated rain forest.
“It’s just really unique. I love the animals and the ability for interactions,” Rico said.
Rico and her family sat in front of a jungle-themed backdrop to pose with an albino python wrapped around their necks for a memorable photo taken by a zoo employee. But most of the animals are to be looked at, not touched.
Some of the strange displayed creatures include a two-towed sloth; an African tortoise; turtles; a red tegu; various birds like parrots, macaws, a laughing kookaburra and a greater curassow; a tarantula; scorpion; frogs; snakes and two slumbering hedgehogs.
Pacific Animal Productions puts on live shows twice during weekdays and three times during the weekends. Zoo animals are visible all day.
The San Mateo County Fair runs Saturday, June 8 through Sunday, June 16 at the San Mateo County Events Center, 2495 S. Delaware St. in San Mateo. It opens from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends and noon to 10 p.m. on weekdays. The carnival will remain open until 11 p.m. nightly. General admission to the fair includes the musical performance. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children 6 to 12 years old and seniors 62 years old and older; and kids under 5 are free. A carnival pass is $30. Parking is $10. All main stage concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. General admission is included in the fair ticket price and VIP tickets are also available at an additional cost.