Friday, August 24, 2012

Close Encounters of the Animal Kind

Many of you are aware that here at the World Bird Sanctuary we do our Amazing Animal Encounters program.  This program is on Saturdays at 11:30am and 2:00pm, and Sundays at 1:30pm every weekend, starting on Memorial Day and running through Labor day.

I am lucky enough to get to do many of these programs myself.  It is a great way not only to teach our guests about some of our truly amazing animals, but it has helped me immensely in learning things I never knew.

On the days I know I’m going to be doing an Amazing Animals Encounter program, I go through the classroom and gather up animals for the program.  Then I do my homework.

I have never before spent so much time with so many animals!  I did not know the first thing about any of these creatures before I started working for the World Bird Sanctuary.  So doing the Animal Encounters programs has been a special challenge for me, but it is so much fun learning about the animals, and finding fun and creative ways to put a show together.

One of my favorite themes has been desert oriented.  I can fly one of our Harris' Hawks--either Wyatt or Tequila--and teach kids about stacking and teamwork.  The Harris Hawk is native to the arid, Southwest regions of our country.  The kids love our little Australian Bearded Dragon, Lucy.  I can talk about our Armadillo, Rustle, and how the warming climate is bringing them further north.  Then every show ends with Lenore, our African White-Necked Raven, helping me teach everyone the importance of recycling.

Naturally everyone’s favorite part of any show is when we fly the birds right over their heads.  Members of our elite team of flying birds are the real stars.  We train them using positive reinforcement, which means they get their favorite snack (rat meat) for every successful flight.  We work with them every day to keep them in tiptop shape.

The next time you are out in the Valley Park area, be sure to come by for a visit.  Valley Park is only 18 miles from downtown St. Louis, just off Interstate 44.  Come and learn about our birds and all the amazing animals here at the World Bird Sanctuary and have your very own Close Encounter of the Animal Kind.  The Animal Encounter programs are on Saturdays and Sundays, but you can see the animals during the week also, even when they are not performing.

Submitted by Neal Cowan, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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