News ItemEnnis Library’s summer reading program underway

Jun 18, 2008 – 

by Matt Cook, The Ennis Daily News

At the Ennis Public Library Tuesday, kids attended “Zooniversity,” one of many interesting attractions offered by the facility’s ongoing Summer Reading Program.

Allison Blankenship, owner of Zooniversity, an animal education center located in Dallas, presented six different animals from around the world.

Blankenship began her “show and tell” in the jungles of east Africa with a giant millipede from Tanzania. “Legs,” named for the 600 legs it walks on, could grow up to 18 inches. Blankenship said Legs has poor eyesight and feels its way around with its antennas. The millipede has no bones, but has a hard exoskeleton as a protective “suit of armor,” Blankenship explained. When in danger, according to the presenter, Legs curls up into a pinwheel to protect its soft belly. The last line of defense is emitting acetic acid when attacked.

The second animal to make an appearance was Miss Prickles, a lesser tenrec from Madagascar. Prickles is four inches long and covered in spines. A distant relative of the hedgehog, Prickles has 7,000 spines and is a nocturnal animal that eats insects. Goliath, an African burrowing bullfrog, is found in the rolling-hilled savannah of Africa. Blankenship said Goliath, a carnivore, travels in a bucket of water and could grow to be the size of a dinner plate. The frog gets its name from the way it hunts for dinner. The bullfrog will burrow into the ground and wait for dinner to come. To swallow its food it squeezes its eyes shut, which pushes the food down into its stomach.

Blankenship had been putting off bringing out the fourth animal, a fennec fox from the Sahara Desert, despite its continuous yelps for attention. Tasha, whose breed is the hottest new exotic animal to own, is a nocturnal animal. The fennec fox digs a hole two stories deep in the sand during the day and can run up to 20 mph searching for food at night. Blankenship said her ears release heat when she is tired after running all night, which she called “ear conditioners.”

She also called Tasha the messiest animal at Zooniversity and because she digs through carpets and runs fast and for long amounts of time. The fennec fox is a terrible animal to own as a pet, and is illegal in the State of Texas without special permits.

Kids were in awe of Ellie, a seven-foot Colombian red-tailed boa constrictor. According to Blankenship, Ellie was found by Irving police in a garage, where she had been placed in a box for more than a year without food or water. Blankenship said it took them three years to nourish Ellie back to complete health and it was a miracle she survived. Ellie will grow to be 15 feet long and weigh approximately 100 pounds.

To find food the snake slithers up trees and rests on branches, where its skin camouflages the reptile. It waits until a rodent, bird or monkey comes by and squeezes the animals ribcage. The boa eats an animal up to three times the size of its head in one gulp.

The finale was with Keera, a wallaby from Australia. Keera was born the size of a jellybean and abandoned by its mother after a storm. Zooniversity is playing the foster parent until Keera is old enough to join its mob.

Prior to Blankenship’s presentation, the kids were read “Caps For Sale: A tale of a peddler, some monkeys and their monkey business,” by Esphyr Slobodkina. The program’s theme this year highlights its 50th anniversary and is titled Texas Reading Club Jubilee 1958-2008: Texas Celebrates 50 Years of Reading. The library has been decorated with records hanging from the ceiling and cutouts of a jukebox and soda shop barstools.

The library will hold programs for the kindergarten through sixth graders on Tuesday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Thursday at 2 and 6 p.m. Programs on Wednesdays for pre-kindergarten children will be held at 10 a.m. Programs will be held through July 24. An award ceremony is scheduled for July 31. Tuesday’s program was attended by 186 children, 30 siblings and 52 adults.

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