Library welcomes wild crittersPublished 2:56pm Thursday, June 21, 2012
The second floor of the Dowagiac District Library was a zoo Thursday as children learned about some exotic creatures for a “Dream Big, Read” family event.
Seasonal instructor Elaine Isely brought along a Mexican dwarf hairy porcupine, a New Guinea blue tongue skink and a great horned owl, just three of the more than 200 animals at Grand Rapids’ John Ball Zoo.
First up was the porcupine, which boasted a brown body with neon yellow quills.
“The color of the quills act as what we call ‘warning colors,’” Isely said during the presentation. “This lets other animals know not to get too close.”
The herbivore commonly lives in trees and is nocturnal. Isely explained that his sense of smell is stronger than his eyesight.
Next, Isely showed the blue tongue skink, which is originally found in the islands surrounding Austrailia. Finally, Isely opened a large wooden box, revealing a great horned owl.
“Owls have great eyesight and are nocturnal,” Isely told the children. “They also eat 10 times their body weight each day.”
During the program, the owl tried several times to take flight, only to land back on Isely’s arm due a tether. Due to the bird’s wingspan and force, many children in the front row giggled at the wind created.
“This is what he does normally,” Isely said. “If something catches his eye, he’s prone to just fly toward it and investigate.”
After the presentation, children were allowed to pet the blue tongue skink and handle biological artifacts from several species.
“It was a very good program. I know my granddaughter enjoyed it,” Carol Buskirk said. “She loves animals, and I was surprised that she knew some of the answers to the questions.”
Trelese Townsend, of Dowagiac, attended with her two grandchildren.
“This was really cool, for them and for me,” Townsend said. “I’ve always seen the John Ball Zoo sign, so now I think we’ll take the grandkids there.”
Isely, who has volunteered for 12 years with the zoo before becoming a seasonal instructor, said the best part was seeing reactions,
“The look on their faces, not just the kids, but the adults, too,” Isely said. “It’s exciting to see them surprised by something they haven’t seen before.”