Walk on the wild side

Published 12:25 am Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jen Dew, with the Columbus Zoo, shows off Avery the umbrella cockatoo during a visit to South Point Elementary School.

Jen Dew, with the Columbus Zoo, shows off Avery the umbrella cockatoo during a visit to South Point Elementary School.

Columbus Zoo visits elementary school

SOUTH POINT — Students at South Point Elementary had some very special visitors on Friday.

Representatives from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and a host of animals were at the school for two presentations of the Amazing Adaptations program.

Jen Dew, an animal program specialist with the zoo and one of the hosts of the event, said the program educates the children on the animals themselves, as well the need for conservation to protect endangered species.

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“We’re showing off the great tools animals have to survive in the wild, and telling how, despite having those tools, they still need our help,” she said. “We’re touching hearts and teaching minds.”

She said the show, which is part of the zoo’s educational outreach, tours primary schools throughout Ohio and parts of West Virginia.

The program kicked off by introducing the kids to Macky, a laughing kookaburra. Native to Australia, the birds’ distinctive sound is used to announce their territory to others.

The students were shown and invited to smell Trussle, a tomandua. A genus of anteaters, they have scent glands to communicate with others of their species.

“He smells like a skunk on steroids who has been lying around in his own poop,” Dew said.

Four of the children were selected from the audience, where they were asked to serve as “cockroach models,” carrying a set of Madagascar hissing cockroaches through the crowd to show their classmates.

Other animals in the show included an Echidna, a bush baby, a kinkajou and an umbrella cockatoo. They were also taught the value of recycling and other ways to contribute to conservation.

The show’s grand finale came with the entrance of Damisi, a cheetah. The students were told of the endangered status of the species, as well of the work of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The organization promotes the use of dogs to guard livestock in areas where cheetahs come into conflict with humans and discourages the shooting of the animals to protect herds.

Finally, on the way out of the gym, the kids got to pet a baby American alligator named Creole.

Bill Christian, the school’s administrative assistant, said the program is a great education for the students about science and conservation, and it provides an opportunity for an up-close learning experience.

“A lot of kids have never been to the zoo, he said. “So we thought we would bring the zoo to them. It’s a treat they may never have otherwise.”

The presentation will be back in the area on Monday, when Burlington Elementary students will get a visit from “Amazing Adaptations.”