Four-legged visitors took a trek around the Denison Public Library Saturday when the site hosted Austin-based Wild Things Zoofari for its summer reading program. The program allowed children of all ages to get a close look at both native and exotic species of animals.
This is the second time that the summer reading program has hosted animals this year following a presentation by Wildlife on the Move in June. Wild Things Zoofari attracted crowds to the library in 2018 when it made an appearance in Denison with a young kangaroo.
“These programs give families an opportunity to experience events together,” Associate Library Director Steve McGowan said. “They get to learn about the animals, geography and get the chance to handle some of them too.”
Saturday’s session was led by Courtney Cortina-Pineda, who introduced the crowd of nearly 30 children to animals from as far away as Brazil and Madagascar. Others animals have been known to live in North America or have relative species that call America home.
Cortina-Pineda started the show by comparing her first animal to the Transformers — robots that shift form from one thing to another. While Tuck first looked like the skin of a basketball, he soon changed what many of the kids recognized as an armadillo.
However, Cortina-Pineda said that Tuck was not quite like the nine-banded armadillo that is native to Texas and instead was a three-banded armadillo that is native to Brazil. This species is the kind that is able to fully roll into a ball for protection, she said.
Another visitor came all the way from Madagascar where his species is one of the most active pollinators on the island. To the delight of the crowd, Cortina-Pineda showed off a young lemur, a species of primate that primarily lives in the trees on the island. However, the species is at risk due to a destruction of the forests they call home and over hunting as a food source.
“Every time we cut down a tree this guy loses his home, his grocery store — he loses everything,” she said.
Makayla Lilliard challenged a gecko to a staring contest, but quickly lost to the lizard. Cortina-Pineda explained that the lizards do not have eyelids like humans and do not blink. Instead, they use their tongues to keep their eyes moist.
Makayla said she wasn’t afraid of the lizard at all, and didn’t mind touching her new friend.
“It feels like it was so soft,” she said. Still, she said she preferred the feel of lemur fur to the lizard skin.