By Kyle Barnhill
Things are getting a little more lively at the Museum of Natural History this week.
“It’s all about life in the desert,” said ‘Jungle’ Geoff Battrum, one of the owners of Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo. “We’ve got a variety of different species of animals, mostly reptiles, but we have a few other things that would naturally live in the desert all over the world.”
In addition to Moishi, there are a pair of brush tailed rats –who kept busy on their exercise wheel– a scorpion, a pixie frog, a bull python, two massive spur-thighed tortoises and a bearded dragon.
The other exhibits include Bugs for Breakfast, Science on a Sphere–which showcases scientific phenomenon that happen on Earth –and Nature Explorations, which talks about Nova Scotia’s wildlife.
It’s a week that the museum’s curator of marketing, Jeff Gray, has been waiting for.
“We’ve been doing March break for as long as there has been March break,” said Gray. “It’s always been the busiest week at the museum and every year we want to do something special for our visitors.”
Interaction a key to success
The museum has been working with Little Ray’s for two years now. Gray said their exhibits are always a hit.
“I love it,” said Suzanne Carr, “I have an 11-year-old who’s absolutely obsessed with it. It’s a really good exhibit.”
Her son, Tyler, said his favourite part was touching Moishi, because it “just felt strange.”
This interactive element is what makes Little’s Ray’s shows a hit.
“It gives people that up close and personal look at the animals,” said Battrum. “They actually get a chance to interact with them as well, which makes us a little different than a lot of other zoos.”
Before the children gather around to pet Moishi’s extended stomach, Battrum firmly reminds them not to touch her head or tail.
He says that while most of the animals are friendly, safety is always a top priority. Visitors are always reminded to sit still and keep their voices low, so they don’t frighten animals that may not be used to the attention.
This is especially important when dealing with the third largest species of snake in the world.
“We don’t let people hold the snakes. They can touch them and stuff like that, but we don’t let people hold them,” said Battrum. “And we most definitely don’t let them near the head. We keep a hold of the head and they get to touch the back end.”
In addition to showing off exotic animals, Little Ray’s exhibits also try to provide information about protecting the ecosystem.
“We’re very conservation focused,” said Battrum. “Doesn’t matter where we are in Canada doing our exhibit, we’re always talking and trying to teach people about animals and plants that need our help.
“In the years to come, we’re hoping to keep teaching people about these animals that are very misunderstood in a lot of ways.”
Gray said that it’s good to have exhibits that are fun for the kids, but at the same time, educational for the adults.
“We want people to come out and obviously have learning opportunities and experience new things,” he said.
“If parents take that away and kids have a great experience, then everyone wins.”
Listen to “Jungle” Geoff Battrum explain the precautions taken during these exhibits.