Animal Tales program teaches public about exotic species


Six-year-old Brayden McGill’s eyes doubled in size and he couldn’t help but get excited when he heard he was going to see a real live pikachu.

Although he misheard and the pikachu turned out to be a kinkajou, McGill wasn’t disappointed.

A kinkajou is a tropical mammal that lives in the rainforest and is related to the raccoon. Weighing less than 5 pounds, kinkajous can be found at night in Central and South America swinging from trees by their strong, prehensile tails.

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“Oh, I like it,” McGill said. “It’s so cute and cuddly. I bet it would make a good pet.”

Astrid the kinkajou was one of six exotic animals that kids and adults were able to see up close as part of the Animal Tales program Tuesday morning at the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour.

Other animals in the show were Tank the Sudan plated lizard, Titan the Asian forest scorpion, Bella the red-tailed boa constrictor, Snowball the Flemish Giant rabbit and Mr. Prickles, the African pygmy hedgehog.

More than 280 children and adults attended the hourlong free program, which was sponsored by the Friends of the Jackson County Public Library as part of the library’s annual summer learning program. Presentations also were made in Medora and Crothersville.

This was the fifth year the library has brought Animal Tales to Jackson County.

The theme was “Creatures of the Galaxy: Out of this World Animals” to coincide with the summer learning program’s “A Universe of Stories” space theme.

Each of the animals in the show was represented by the stars that make up the different constellations in the night sky, said Animal Tales presenter Zoe Bonerbo.

The purpose of Animal Tales, which is based in Tennessee, is to educate the public about unfamiliar species and to make them less scary, Bonerbo said.

“It’s a critical time and some animal populations are becoming threatened or endangered,” she said. “We want to get kids to understand the importance of these animals and their role in the ecosystem so that they aren’t scared and realize we can coexist.”

Reptiles and insects are often the most feared, so that’s why she brought along a lizard, a scorpion and a snake.

McGill said he didn’t really want to see the scorpion and would rather see a lion.

“It looks mean,” he said of the insect that remained in Bonerbo’s gloved hand as she walked around the gymnasium.

Found in southeast Asia, the forest scorpion has pincers and a stinger on its tail, but its venom is not lethal. The species is considered docile, and some people keep them as pets.

Although the scorpion was black in color, it glowed when volunteer Gunner Aynes shined a black light on it.

Avery Williams, 10, also was lucky enough to get picked to come up and help Bonerbo. She got to feed the kinkajou.

The furry little creatures are often called honey bears for their love of the sweet nectar.

It was her favorite animal of the show, she said.

She heard about this year’s Animal Tales at her school when library staff visited to talk about the summer learning program. This is the third year she has attended.

“We looked up the kinkajou on our Chromebooks so we would know more about it,” she said. “I like it because they always bring something new.”

Lola Snyder, head of youth services at the library, said Animal Tales is popular in the community and people look forward to it every year.

“Everybody loves animals,” she said. “Most people will come away from their programs having learned something new.”

Her favorite also was the kinkajou.

“Everybody said, ‘Awwww’ when she brought out Astrid,” Snyder said.

It also helps that the presenters are knowledgeable about each animal and want to protect them.

“They treat the animals with such care and respect, and this is reflected in their show,” she said. “I think people respond to that, as well.”

Snyder wants kids and adults to walk away from the program with a little more appreciation for all animals.

“I hope they learn not to fear but to respect animals and a little about coexisting on this finite planet of ours,” she said.

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