News ItemAnimal menagerie on display at Zooniversity

Jun 3, 2004 – 

by Penny Rathburn, The Celina Record

Last Thursday Allison Blankenship, the zookeeper of Zooniversity brought with her to the Celina library a few exotic critters that few people get to see up close. She asked the audience of about 50 children to be very quiet as she brought each animal out from its cage.

The cockatoo’s favorite trick was to fall over “dead.” He also had a number of comments to make throughout the show. “Cockatoos can live to be 100 years old,” said Blankenship. “They are smart as a bright three-year-old child. Imagine having to entertain a three-year-old for 100 years.”

She said they constantly give the cockatoo things to do, challenges and puzzles and things to take apart.

When she brought out the tarantula that crawled up and down her arms, most of the adults in the room were cringing. The small desert fox brought “oohs” and “ahs” from everyone. The most exotic of her brood was the genet, a member of the Viverridae family. It has a cat-like face, ears and paws and will purr like a cat, but it is not feline. The African spotted genet is related to the civet and the mongoose.

Blankenship said in the wild the genet and the desert fox could run as fast as 35 miles an hour. “They do run fast when they play together,” she said.

The North American porcupine was also a crowd-pleaser, especially when he nibbled on his fig Newton. She said they were his special treat for doing shows.

Most of her animals are refugees from the wild or former owners who did not know how to take care of an exotic animal. The desert fox is almost blind from not being fed the proper diet from a former owner.

As Zooniversity critters, her animals are educating hundreds of people.

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