Saturday, 5 May 2012

Exotic animals thrill students

Coming eye to eye with a tarantula the size of their young hands was "pretty cool," said many of the sixth-graders attending the Wildwood Zoo spring education program Thursday morning.

But the loudest gasps and "oohs" happened when a 12-foot albino Burmese python snake was uncoiled by Dennis "Dino" Tlachac, naturalist and owner of Stevens Point-based Nature's Niche Environmental Education Services.

"That is the same snake as last year but, look, it's a lot bigger. It's huge," Avery Haugen, 12, a student at Madison Elementary School, said to her friends seated near her.

Seeing the difference in the snake from a year ago was interesting, Avery said.

"I think that kind of snake can grow pretty big," said Megan Wipfli, 12, also a student at Madison school. "I wouldn't want that kind of pet."

The Wildwood Zoological Society sponsors the annual education program for local grade school classes to foster education about wildlife and nature and to nurture children's interest in animals, said Darlene Schubert, the zoo's education coordinator.

The theme of the annual program varies each year, but many of the same animals participate, said Tlachac, who brings animals annually from his sanctuary to teach about nature and wildlife.

The albino python started as a family pet, which Tlachac rescued a few years ago, he said.

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