Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Exotic animals in Raymond - By Walter Lunt

The Raymond Parent-Teacher Organization, Raymond Village Library and Engineered Construction Services (ECS) of Raymond teamed up to bring area children a close encounter with exotic animals over April vacation.
The program, Wildlife Encounters of Rochester, New Hampshire, was an obvious thrill for the more than 100 children and adults in attendance at the Raymond Public Safety Building last Monday. The program also carried a serious message.

Derek, the Encounter’s presenter, treated area preschool through elementary-aged kids and their families to several non-native animals and was rewarded with reactions ranging from awe to squeals of delight.

First up was Sid, a white cockatoo with funky feet, who performed a table-top dance that prompted a chorus of cheers and laughter. The delight, however, died back significantly when Sid demonstrated its ear-piercing warning cry of the jungle. Sid, Derek explained, was actually a descendant of ancient crocodiles and dinosaurs. Feathers replaced scales in the slow process of adaptation. Pointing to the large black eyes on each side of the bird’s head, he had the kids repeat a learning rhyme:  “Eyes on the side, I like to hide. Eyes in front (like an owl) I like to hunt.”

As the 90-minute presentation progressed, kids got a close-up look at creatures more commonly seen in magazines and on the National Geographic channel.  

The African hedgehog, resembling a large, fur-lined pin cushion, hid his face when curled up for protection. Derek challenged a front row attendee to flip the animal onto its back. The attempt, although cheered on by the audience, met with no success. The Komodo lizard, known as the alligator’s evil cousin in its native land, mimics the Gila monster for protection. Joey, the wallaby, licks soil while leaning out of its mother’s pouch to absorb nutrient rich microbes. 
Some of the animals, explained Derek, are threatened species. 

The discussion centered on how people can live their lives in ways that help animals survive. One example involved the southwest king snake, which emerged from a carrier wrapped around the presenter’s hand and wrist. Ranchers and farmers import the reptiles. King snakes main food source is other snakes and helps rid the ranch land of threatening species, such as rattlesnakes. The practice, known as bio-mimicry, is environmentally friendly. 

Other practices, such as carbon sequestration, mentioned but not explained in depth (due to the limited age and experiences of the young audience) deal with using the earth’s own resources to solve the problems of modern humanity. As Derek put it, “It’s not ‘save the earth,’ it’s ‘promote a human life support system’.”

Following the presentation, audience members got the chance to pet the hedgehog and the king snake. There was less interest in the snake.

Photos were submitted by Lisa Davison.

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