The Emerald Coast Zoo, located at 5262 Deer Springs Road, hosted a week-long zoo camp for children ranging in age from 7 to 11 years old.

CRESTVIEW — Many children had the chance to see what it’s like working with animals last week.

The Emerald Coast Zoo, located at 5262 Deer Springs Road, hosted a week-long zoo camp for children ranging in age from 7 to 11 years old.

Children who attended were put into small groups with a counselor and experienced some of the daily duties that go into caring for the animals at the zoo.

“They go in and clean all of the hoofstock pens,” said zoo owner Rick de Ridder. “They go inside it and learn about how we like to recycle, renew, and reuse. It’s really cool because all the poo leaves the zoo every day.”

De Ridder said the children enjoy the learning process. One kid even excitedly said “I’ve got to pick up poo today!”

The kids also learned how the zoo feeds the animals and make enrichment to help stimulate the animals’ minds.

“The kids, for the wolves, made rags and tied them together and put different scents on them, like perfume or catnip,” de Ridder said. “The keeper threw that into the enclosures and the kids could see how the wolves react to it. Some of the wolves would lie down and roll on it.”

The kids also learned facts about animals such as reptiles, birds and primates, watched Levi the lion get his lunch, toured the zoo and took a ride on a camel.

“Part of our mission is education,” said Sara de Ridder, Rick’s wife and co-owner of the zoo. “So many kids love animals and we wanted a neat way for kids to get hands-on experience with animals beside cats and dogs.”

Rick added that the camp helps show the kids that zoos are needed.

“We’re trying to get the 'zoos are bad' myth out of their minds,” Rick said. “Zoo’s get a bad wrap and they shouldn’t.”

The de Ridders said the camp is beneficial to both kids and parents.

“Moms and dads have their kids all summer so they are looking for things to do,” Rick said. “This gives them a break.”

“Like Rick said, we want to educate them on the benefits of the zoo, but also what it’s like to work with the animals,” Sara added.

The zoo will hold another week of camp from July 23-26. The camp is $225, which includes all activities, supplies, one daily snack, a backpack, a reusable water bottle and one Zoo Camp T-shirt.

For more information or to register for the camp, go to www.emeraldcoastzoo.com.