Taking the zoo to the kids | RecordCourier.com

Taking the zoo to the kids

Gabe Kerschner of Conservation Ambassadors shows a Kinkajou to kids attending the Minden Library's wildlife show at the CVIC Hall Wednesday.
Brad Coman

Animal ambassadors from the wilds of Madagascar to the rainforest of the Amazon, and even the Sierra, came to show off in front of a crowd of delighted children Wednesday evening.

Hosted by the Douglas County Public Library, two wildlife shows put on by the Conservation Ambassadors Inc. “Zoo to You” program were performed at the Zephyr Cove Library and the CVIC Hall.

Some of the animals in attendance were Ringo the lemur, Nike the kinkajou, Precious the rattlesnake, and Archimedes the great horned owl.

Ringo the lemur, who should be living in the jungles of Madagascar, was saved from an illegal smuggler in Texas and sent to the Conservation Ambassadors for rehabilitation. He was small, underfed, and very sick when he arrived, but due to the care of the Ambassadors, he now lives a happy life eating bananas and hopping around for children.

The mission of the Ambassadors is “to provide a permanent, loving home for displaced, abused, abandoned or permanently injured wild and exotic animals. The Zoo to You outreach program helps educate school children and learners of all ages about conservation, connecting them to the wild world and inspiring them to protect the planet.”

Nike the kinkajou is a small, furry creature, who looks like a cross between a weasel and a child’s teddy bear with a long prehensile tail, and spends most of his time upsidedown.

Kinkajous are native to the Amazon Rainforest, and are cousins to the raccoon.

Unfortunately for 20-year-old Nike, he spent a good portion of his life inside of a parrot cage in a San Francisco woman’s kitchen.

“Unless the animal is Class A endangered such as a giant panda, seized animals that were illegally trafficked into the country won’t be sent back to their origin country,” said handler Gabe Kerschner. “It risks transmitting diseases back to the wild, putting native populations in jeopardy.”

Closer to home, Precious the rattlesnake was injured in a weed whacking accident. Her tail was nearly severed completely off, but the Ambassadors were able to nurse her back to health. However, due to the injury, she can no longer strike properly when hunting food, so she cannot be released back to the desert.

“They’re the most misunderstood creatures on the planet,” said Kerschner.

The Ambassadors nonprofit is based out of Paso Robles, Calif., and generally the “Zoo to You” program sticks to California, available from Sacramento to San Diego, but children, parents and community members alike were delighted they made the trip East into Nevada.

“Over a million California school children have experienced our unique style of education blended with live animals, relevant storytelling and a fun, enlightening message,” said the Ambassadors.

Archimedes the great horned owl was nearly killed after he was hit by a truck one night. Thankfully, he was sent to UC Davis’s California Raptor Center, and his life was saved. However, he now has a slight owl-version of a limp, in which one wing cannot extend as far as the other, and so he spends his time wowing people with Ambassadors.

“We don’t know how old he is,” said Kerschner, “but he’s been with us for 15 years now.”

Twenty-five years after it was created by CEO David Jackson, Conservation Ambassadors and Zoo To You has rescued hundreds of animals and educated millions of children.

To donate, volunteer, find out more information, or to hire the program for anything from school programs, to birthday parties, weddings, corporate events, or simply private parties, visit their website at http://www.ZooToYou.org.