News ItemNo Monkey Business – Animals visit Princeton library, students

Students touch a Lesser Tenrec from Madagascar. The animal, Blankenship said, feels like a hairbrush with too much hair gel.

Jun 24, 2010 – 

by Wendi Veigel, The Princeton Herald

Allison Blankenship of Zooniversity brought several animals for the kids involved with Princeton’s Summer Reading Club to touch and learn about, including a kinkajou, shown at right, which is actually related to a raccoon though it looks like a monkey.

Though there were many visitors during the Princeton Memorial Library’s summer reading club meeting last week, not all of them were of the human variety.

Allison Blankenship from the North Texas company Zooniversity brought several animals from around the world; boys and girls were allowed to touch some, learn about them, and, in some cases, even hear the animals. 

Doggie, the black-tailed prairie dog, quickly taught students what prairie dogs do best: dig. Students could hear her trying to escape from her traveling crate wanting to be with Blankenship before the show.

Zooniversity is a traveling wildlife education company that introduces children and adults to the world of exotic animals. Each year the company delivers more than 700 conservation-based programs at schools, day cares, libraries, churches, Scouts, community and corporate events and private parties throughout Texas and surrounding states.

According to its website, most of their animals are injured wildlife, abandoned “pets” or rescues from deplorable captive conditions.

The children at the reading club got to meet:

  • Miss Prickles, a Lesser Tenrec from Madagascar 
  • Sampson, a baby African Burrowing Bullfrog
  • Whiplash, a Moroccan spiny-tailed lizard from Africa
  • Ruby, an Albino Lavender Kingsnake found in the U.S.
  • Doggie, a black-tailed Prairie dog found in Texas
  • A kinkajou from South America
  • Joey, a Bennett’s Wallaby from Australia/New Zealand, and
  • Rocky, an African Plated Lizard.

Students also learned about the hazards of owning an exotic animal as Blankenship told them the story of the kinkajou.

According to Blankenship, the kinkajou was found in Plano when a man requested an exotic animal company to get him a monkey.

Though the kinkajou is not a primate and is related to a raccoon, the company pulled the animal from its natural habitat in South America and shipped it to the man.

The kinkajou was not the animal the man wanted as a pet, so he placed the animal in a pet carrier on his porch to live through the North Texas winter.

“It took us a year to get her nursed back to health, and we are still working with her to trust humans,” she told the kids in a hushed tone.

The animal was shown to the kids, though the seemingly cuddly creature was not touched by any of the students.

“We don’t want to scare her or traumatize her any more,” Blankenship said.

She educated the students and allowed them to pet the other animals. 

For more information on zooniversity, go to www.zooniversity.org.

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