The California Living Museum is a combination of a zoo, a botanic garden, and a natural history museum. Located in Bakersfield, California, it is home to a variety of animals, plants, fossils, and artifacts, all of them having their origins in the state.
The museum, being a rehabilitation facility, provides proper care for the injured wild animals and birds brought in to the facility. Once the animals and birds are restored to good health, they are released back into the wild. The museum only permanently houses those animals that cannot survive in the wild.
California Living Museum was established in 1980 and opened to the public in 1983. It was conceptualized by a group of community leaders, who wanted to instill a sense of respect for all living beings among the local community.
With this objective in mind, the museum was conceived as a center for education, recreation, research, and conservation.
During its first 15 years of operation, the museum was run entirely on the donations of business firms and individuals. A sizeable part of the day-to-day activities were looked after by volunteers. In July, 1998, the museum established a partnership with the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, thus assuring its long term operation.
The museum is located on a 14-acre campus-styled park. The exhibits include nearly 40 mammal species, 50 bird species, 25 reptile and amphibian species, 1,500 plant species, 300 fossil specimens, and a good collection of Yokuts Indian artifacts.
The animals and birds are placed in different zones according to their nature and habitat. Some of the zones include an open black bear exhibit, bird of prey exhibit, mammal round, waterfowl pond, deer yard, an underground reptile house, and a contact area featuring domestic animals. The exhibits also include several endangered species.
Apart from the animal species, the museum boasts a fine collection of native plants. A special section entitled “Trees of California," displays a large variety of the local plantlife.
An in-house stream recreates the environment required for the riverside plants, and there is a special desert section, as well, for desert plants. Other attractions include the butterfly and hummingbird garden, which is a haven for insects and small birds.
The museum’s DiGiorgio Education Center houses a gift store, a reading library, and children's discovery rooms with rotating interactive exhibits.
The hall also features a good collection of Miocene and Pleistocene fossils. The Earth Science display portrays the natural history of California, from the prehistoric days to modern times.
Each year, more than 13,000 Kern County School children are treated to a tour of the California Living Museum and are introduced to various educational programs.
Additionally, the museum also provides 60 off-site programs for various organizations and community events.