Zac Efron Makes Some Wild New Friends

Zac Efron Makes Some Wild New Friends
Zac Efron
Lionel Hahn/Abaca

08/15/2012 AT 09:00 AM EDT

When it comes to close companions, Zac Efron hangs with Hollywood's hottest women (ahem, Ashley Tisdale and Taylor Swift) and most eligible bachelors (cue Robert Pattinson and Matthew McConaughey).

But you probably haven't seen the latest addition to his posse on the big screen or in the pages of a magazine.

Meet Rich, the red-tailed hawk (who perches on his hand in the video below).

"Made a new friend," he Tweeted Monday, days after a photo shoot with BlackBook magazine last week at the Wildlife Learning Center in Los Angeles.

The actor, 24, actually made several, David Riherd, co-founder and trainer of the sanctuary, which shelters displaced wildlife, tells PEOPLE. Among his new critter companions: a gray fox, a Siberian lynx and a kinkajou (which is a relative of the raccoon).

"He was great. He was really respectful of the animals," Riherd says. "He seemed down to earth."

Even the 70-lb. lynx (not to mention a python) didn't intimidate the actor, who posed with the wildlife for the magazine shoot.

Although he didn't have much time to show his wild side with the animals – "It was so hot outside," said trainer Brittany Whitlow, who was also on hand during his visit – Efron did get playful with one special critter.

"[The fox] is so affectionate," Riherd says. "She got right up on his shoulder."

The 8-lb. furry friend also had a specific way of expressing her excitement at meeting the movie star: She licked his face (but this wasn't special treatment, says Riherd, and she treats all of her caregivers with this greeting).

"He seemed really into it," Riherd says. Adds Whitlow: "I think I was surprised at how comfortable he was with everything."

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