What do cockroaches, snakes and turtles have in common?
The creeping, creepy creatures captured the attention and imagination of some 40-some wide-eyed children at Genoa Library last week.
Toledo Zoo educators dropped in with their hands-on show as part of the library’s 2013 summer reading club “Dig Into Reading.
It was one of 75 shows done so far this year by educator Dave Lockert, who was assisted by education programmer Kathy West and zoo volunteer Julianne Racine.
|Dave Lockert with snake.
||Rudy Moya touches snake
“I like rolly pollies,” said 5-year-old Hudson Kwiatkowski, of Williston, before he settled in for a front seat view of the show.
The trio tempted the tiny crowd first by regaling them with stories about the zoo’s 17-foot long crocodile that weighs in at 1,500 pounds. “It almost weighs as much as my car,” Lockert said.
The kids were more interested in the croc’s appetite though.
”Right now, he eats roast beef. He’s eating better than I am. He should be eating chicken right now but he’s not. He can eat a whole cow,” the educator laughed.
West queried the kids about why animals and bugs might tunnel into the ground. “To protect themselves,” one little girl answered sheepishly. Then West talked about hibernation and what kind of animals take the long naps.
She pulled out a swatch of meerkat fur and walked between the aisles of children who craned their necks and reached out to run the fur between their fingers. They also got to touch fur from a fox and polar bear.
Then the educators got to the juicy part of the show, at least as far as the kids were concerned. The adults reached into one of the three coolers on the table before them. Out came a hard-shelled bug – a Madagascar hissing cockroach, which typically lives with thousands of its relatives on the floor of the jungle amid dead and decaying fruits and vegetables.
“Ewwwww,” the crowd cried in unison. Still many were still eager to touch the top.
“His hiss can be as loud as a tractor,” West told the fascinated group.
Next, a turtle and a snake emerged. Kids under 5 were not allowed to touch these two though.
“There’s a potential for salmonella,” Lockert said, explaining why the younger children, elderly and pregnant women could not touch the reptiles. “They are quarantined at the zoo and cared for better than you and I so that’s not really an issue. It’s just a precaution.”
Many of the older children eagerly ran two fingers across the shell of the eastern box turtle named Michelin. But some held their hands back cautiously as Lockert walked among the group with the two-foot long sand boa called Tuscan.
“I’ll touch it,” said Rudy Moya, 8, of Genoa as he stepped up to Lockert. Others followed his lead, slowly reaching out their hands toward the snake.
The show wrapped up in about an hour. Zoo educators then made the short drive to the Harris-Elmore Library to show off the critters.
“We do this every day across the region. Most of the shows are at schools, nursing homes and hospitals,” Lockert said.
Zoo educator Dave Lockert shows off a sand boa at the Underground Animals show at the Genoa Library.
Genoa resident Rudy Moya, 8, pets the visiting snake held by Toledo Zoo educator Dave Lockert.