The Charles Paddock Zoo was started by Charles “Chuck” Paddock, a county park ranger, in the county animal shelter in 1955. Paddock would nurse wild animals back to health, and by 1959 his menagerie contained over 125 birds and mammals. In 1963 the animals were moved to the current location adjacent to the Atascadero Lake Park, just off State Route 41, and the new zoo was named Atascadero Children’s Zoo. In 1979, the City of Atascadero took over management of the zoo after it was incorporated. The name was changed to Charles Paddock Zoo in honor of its founder in 1980.
The zoo is home to more than 200 animals.
Birds at the zoo include black-necked stilt, Inca tern, Mandarin duck, ring-necked parakeet, ringed teal, roseate spoonbill, scarlet ibis, Sulawesi ground dove, and white-faced whistling duck in the aviary, blue and gold macaw, double yellow-headed Amazon parrot, salmon-crested cockatoo, and scarlet macaw at the Parrot Pond, as well as burrowing owl, Caribbean flamingo, emu, great horned owl, and helmeted guineafowl.
Mammals at the zoo include Jacob’s sheep in the barnyard, titi monkey in the South American exhibit, and African crested porcupine, Bennett’s wallaby, black-handed spider monkey, Channel Island fox, fossa, Malayan tiger, Mara (Patagonia Cavy), prehensile-tailed porcupine, Prevost’s squirrel, Red River hog, red ruffed lemur, slender-tailed meerkat, a red panda and White-fronted marmoset.
Reptiles and amphibians at the zoo include Aldabra giant tortoise, Burmese python, carpet python, Desert tortoise, European pond turtle, giant Asian hill tortoise, Gila monster, South American red-footed tortoise, and African bullfrog.