Friday, August 23, 2019

Zoo Comes to the Children

Checking out the hognose snake
Checking out the hognose snake
There were giggles, murmurs of awe, even strange quacking on the lawn outside Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen.

The occasion was an appearance by the Utica Zoomobile on a sunny Friday in August.
West Side Boutique’s Nancy Robert coordinated the visit for neighborhood children, many of whom have been eating at the soup kitchen during summer vacation.

“We wanted to do something nice for the kids,” she said, “something they’ll remember.”

Josie the hognose snake
Josie the hognose snake
Zoo Educator Justin Horrender quickly engaged the children, asking questions and telling stories about the animals he brought.

“Did you know that snakes don’t have ears?” he said as a small hognose serpent named Josie wrapped itself around his hand. “And they use their tongues to smell.”

He carried the snake to each child so he or she could see it up close and even touch it.

Justin holding Lucky the snapping turtle
Justin with Lucky the snapping turtle
Next was Lucky, a snapping turtle who was lucky to survive unscathed after being sucked into a farmer’s combine.

He held Lucky aloft so they could see, but not touch – as it has a “powerful, dangerous bite.” Snapping turtles are omnivores, “eating a little bit of everything,” from “water plants” to “baby ducks”.

The children were able to come up and touch the next guest, Daisy the Opossum, as Justin held her close to his chest. Daisy ended up at the zoo because she liked being around humans too much and couldn’t be released into the wild after being raised by a wildlife rehabilitator, Justin explained. Daisy and her siblings had been in their mother’s pouch when it was hit by a car.

The final guest of the afternoon was Howard, an Indian Runner duck, which some of the children got to pet as Justin held it in his lap.

His quack, by the way, sounds “just like the duck on the on the Aflac commercial.”

Justin with Howard, the Indian Runner duck
Howard the duck
Children pet Daisy the opossum
Kids pet Daisy the Opossum