Rain forest animals pay a visit to local libraries

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Even libraries get a little wild sometimes.

On Monday, Carroll County libraries introduced kids to some guests who were a little hairier and scalier than usual. Shawna Adams, biologist and wildlife programmer from the Natural History Educational Company of the Mid-South, brought six rain forest animals to local libraries as part of the “Community Under the Canopy” educational program.

The animals traveled across the county, visiting the Berryville, Eureka Springs and Green Forest public libraries.

“We are going to be looking at animals from three different rain forests today, and some of them live in the canopy,” Adams said.

The Berryville Library was full of children and parents. The children sat on a rug in front of Adams, and parents gathered around, sitting in chairs or even joining children on the floor.

Adams said the rain forests’ trees grow so tall and expand so wide that it forms a canopy, which acts as a shelter for the animals.

Adams began her presentation with a hissing cockroach from Madagascar.

“Even some of the smallest animals play a huge role in keeping a place healthy,” she said.

She said the cockroaches have little openings on the sides of their heads that they can use to push air out really hard in order to create a hissing noise.

“They usually only hiss if they are frightened or if they are fighting for territory,” Adams said.

She said when the cockroaches grow they shed their skin and eat it.

“They eat it for nutrition because it’s got lots of nutrients in it and lots of protein,” Adams said.

The next animals Adams introduced were two reptiles from the Amazon rain forest: a green iguana and a boa snake.

“Larry [the iguana] spends most of his time in the trees because of predators,” she said.

She said an animal that lives in the trees is called “arboreal.” She said iguanas are also herbivores, meaning they eat plants, and are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day.

She said about 90 percent of pet iguanas die within a year because taking care of them can be difficult.

“He [Larry] needs special lighting, and special heat and humidity. He needs the right kind of food and calcium. If he doesn’t have it, he can get really sick,” she said.

Adams said lizards have eyelids and ears but snakes do not. She pulled a red-tailed boa snake out of a tub and placed it on her neck.

She placed her finger near the snake’s eye to show the audience that its eyes do not shut.

“What this means is that you can never tell for sure whether a snake is awake or asleep,” Adams said.

She said a lot of people yell when they are scared by a snake.

“If you want to frighten a snake, stomp on the ground. That causes vibrations,” she said. “A snake can feel the vibrations of a little tiny mouse walking across the ground because of the way the scales on their bellies are made.”

The next animal Adams showed was an African straw-colored fruit bat.

“This bat is one of 1,200 species that occur on almost every continent on Earth,” she said.

The bat has a yellow patch of fur near his neck, which is why “straw-colored” is in its name.

“This bat is important because of what it does for a tree. In the rain forest, it rains every single day. The seeds of trees have unique adaptation to survive that wet environment,” Adams said.

She continued, “The seeds are really hard to prevent rotting. But because they are so hard they don’t grow well on their own. As a result of that, they need to be eaten by an animal.”

Adams said the teak tree produces a seed that is really hard.

“The bat eats the fruit of the teak tree. When it eats the fruit of the teak tree, it swallows a seed,” she said. “When the bat eventually poops that seed out, it will germinate and grow.”

She said research shows that 98 percent of teak tree seeds travel through a bat’s digestive system.

“What that means is if anything happened to this bat you’re going to lose the teak trees, too,” she said.

She said bats are huge pollinators and pollinate a lot of the plants that humans need.

Adams’ next animal was a yellow-naped green Amazon parrot.

“Birds are the only animals that can mimic human language, and parrots are experts at it,” she said.

Adams said the parrot can say a variety of things ranging from, “Hi, how are you?” to “Come here.”

She said she is not sure about the parrot’s gender or age because the parrot came from a previous owner. She said parrots can live to be 50 to 60 years old.

Adams said parrots need a lot of attention, and, if one does not receive the attention it needs, it can become angry or aggressive.

The final animal Adams introduced to the crowd was a white-nosed coatimundi.

She said the coatimundi is related to the raccoon, but, unlike raccoons, it is active during the day.

Adams said it is an omnivore, meaning it eats both plants and other animals.

“During the day, coatimundis travel in large groups for protection from predators,” she said

She said they have very long noses and a strong sense of smell.

Adams said her coatimundi has a teddy bear that she holds and loves on as if it’s her baby. She said the coatimundi also loves peppermint oil, so Adams sprays it on her teddy bear to help calm her down.

The theme of the Berryville Library’s Summer Reading Program is to be “makers, not takers” and continue building a better world. Library director Julie Hall connected the idea of building a better world back to the canopy and its inhabitants.

“Hopefully, you learned how to make a better world for not only humans but for animals as well,” she said. “If you ever get to travel to other parts of the world like jungles and rain forests, look what you get to experience.”

To learn more about any of the library’s programs, visit the Berryville Library at 104 Spring St. or call 870-423-2323. The library’s calendar of events is also posted on the Berryville Public Library page on Facebook.

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