AMHERST – No lions and tigers and bears. But Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo of Halifax brought snakes and scorpions, tarantulas and tortoises to Amherst on Monday for the education and entertainment of more than two dozen preschoolers.
Jake Bastarache of Amherst Montessori School had a favourite animal in the collection introduced to the youngsters.
“The big yellow snake,” said the boy. “His colour.”
Two snakes were shown to the children. The corn snake was attractive but it was the ‘big yellow’ one, an anaconda, that made the larger impression it seems.
The hour-plus event was organized by Little Lambs and the Montessorri school for their students, at a combined cost of $320. Lacey Lescraudon, a handler with Ray’s, set up at Little Lambs. Tupperware bins ranging from small to large were opened one at a time, beginning with a small container sheltering a docile tarantula and ending with a large bin holding a small treasure: a juvenile cayman – a type of crocodilian. Between those two introductions children had a chance to see, and in some cases touch, a scorpion, a tree frog, a gecko, a bearded dragon lizard, two snakes, a tortoise and a little alligator snapping turtle (about the size of a common snapping turtle, but much smaller than the 150-plus pound behemoths these prehistoric-looking wonders can become).
“It was awesome,” said Candace Smith, executive director of Little Lambs.
Smith said they try to bring someone in, or go on a trip, each month.
Kyla Brown is an early childhood educator at the Montessorri school.
“It was an excellent show and a great way for us to further our learning (on) reptiles,” she said.
Her students began a unit on reptiles once they found out they would be attending the show.
Reptile handler Lescraudon traveled up from Halifax Monday morning and had a show back in the city in the afternoon.
“I always wanted a pet reptile,” she said.
She got her first lizard 10 years ago, and began working for the Halifax franchise of the Ottawa-based reptile zoo two years ago.
Dylan Laliberte, like Bastarache, was impressed with the large snake. The preschooler thought the anaconda looked friendly.
“Petting the animals,” he said, when asked his favourite part of the event.
SIDEBAR: The reptile handler said 90 per cent of their animals are rescues or surrenders – animals rehomed after their original owners could no longer care for them. She said meeting dietary requirements, ignorance of the long lifespan of many species, and husbandry issues generally, are common hurdles pet owners may encounter. A number of the species she displayed are prohibited in Nova Scotia for the general public.