The Boys and Girls Club in Seymour was a zoo Monday.
Besides the usual number of kids running around playing, there were a few visitors for whom being wild was just in their nature.
As part of its ongoing Get in the Game summer reading program activities, the Jackson County Public Library brought in animal educator Jeff Armstrong from Kingston Springs, Tennessee, to share his knowledge of and passion for animals with the community.
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More than 100 children and adults attended the free 40-minute Nature’s Olympians: Animal Athletes program in the Boys and Girls Club gymnasium. Other programs took place later in the day at Crothersville Community School Corp. and Medora Christian Church.
Armstrong is an owner and mid-south director of Animal Tales, a company founded to educate, entertain and inspire people with the wonder of nature.
This was the second year for the program locally, but all new animals were featured. Armstrong introduced seven exotic species from around the world that utilize unique abilities to compete and survive in the wild.
“Animals can do some amazing things. They can climb walls. They can hold their breath for a long time. They can regenerate limbs,” Armstrong said. “A bald eagle has a thousand pounds of grip per square inch.”
The crowd had never seen or even heard of some of the animals, including Attila, an Argentine black and white tegu.
The tegu is part of the lizard family and one which is the smartest in the world because it can be trained to use a litter box and come when called, Armstrong said.
It also is known in the animal kingdom for another unusual ability.
“This guy can stay underwater for 22 minutes without breathing,” he said.
Erin Schepman of Seymour said her three daughters, Brinley, 7, Lyla, 5, and Morgan, 1, were excited to see and learn about the animals.
“Yes, they loved it. The gentleman presenting did a great job telling interesting facts and had a very entertaining way of introducing each of the animals,” Schepman said.
Brinley said she liked the baby wallaby the best because it was cute and stayed in a pouch.
Although Lyla thought the animals were great, she was disappointed that Armstrong didn’t bring her favorite animal.
“I wanted to see a baby cheetah,” Lyla said.
“I’m not sure where the recent obsession with cheetahs came from,” Schepman added.
Although turtles are common around Jackson County, Schepman said she liked learning about Speedy, the African spurred or sulcata tortoise.
Speedy has an expected life span of 105 to 150 years and will continue to grow throughout his life, Armstrong said.
And as most people know, tortoises don’t move very fast. In fact, Armstrong said one of their tortoises went missing for five weeks and was later discovered 10 miles away.
Armstrong allowed several volunteers from the audience to come up, help him introduce the animals and pet them.
“It’s an opportunity to teach them something they don’t know and some of these animals you won’t even see in a zoo,” he said.
Laney Reinhart, 8, and her brother, Max, 6, of Seymour, both love animals and going to the zoo, so they liked the program, too.
The baby agile wallaby, which is part of the kangaroo family, was their favorite.
“It was funny to see it wearing a diaper and in a baby sling,” Laney said.
“It was cute because it was a baby,” Max added.
But the coastal carpet python Armstrong brought out at one point was one animal Laney said she didn’t like.
“The snake on his neck was scary, and I would have been really scared if it was on me,” she said.
The program was funded by the Friends of the Jackson County Public Library.
Lola Snyder, youth services director for the library, said the Animal Tales programs are by far some of the most popular the library has offered.
“We had a 114 people here last year,” she said. “It was so much more than we expected, but that was great. We know animals are popular with kids. Everyone loves animals, and Animal Tales does a great job of educating about the animals. It’s a lot of fun.”