Wild animals invade SE Portland library

Why were patrons pleased to see a python in their presence? Look at what was behind this zoological field trip …

Fiona McGovern, an animal trainer with the “Wildlife Live” program at the Oregon Zoo, unpacks exhibits for the Woodstock Library show.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It’s not often that people go into a library – and, instead of books and computers, find a snake, a wild bird, and giant insects in the stacks.

But instead of fleeing in terror, or just coming to check out a book, families were crowding in to the SE Portland branch library in late March to see the critters.

The Oregon Zoo’s Fiona McGovern and Genevieve Currall introduce their traveling animal program to Woodstock Library patrons.

“Welcome to our outreach program of the Oregon Zoo,” smiled Fiona McGovern, an animal trainer with the Zoo’s “Wildlife Live”.

McGovern had brought in boxloads of exhibits, and several live animal containers. “I really enjoy doing programs like this.”

In addition to the live animals, McGovern also showed off bones, skulls, and fur pelts from many animals.

Genevieve Currall holds Rosita, as Tenaya McLeith and Prudence watch her – from a distance!

Eight-year-old Hali Bailey looks over the exhibits with her “Big Sister” pal, Elisa Walling.

“I think it is important to help young people and kids learn how important animals are to human beings and to the environment,” McGovern told us. “Especially with the young kids, we try to get them interested, involved, and personally-invested in animal kingdom. Hopefully, in the future, they’ll want to contribute to conservation efforts.”

Because the Woodstock Library’s activity room was in use, McGovern and her assistant, intern Genevieve Currall, set up the show-and-tell session on tables in the main room near the front door. By the time they had unpacked the entire exhibit, more than 60 people were already crowding around to look and listen to the brief presentation, and to enjoy a personal encounter with wildlife.

Visitor Amelia Carpenter is entranced by the ball python McGovern holds.

“With us today – we have a western screech owl, some Madagascan hissing cockroaches, and a ball python,” McGovern pointed out. “Personally I love showing our snake. I love seeing how the kids react when they touch the snake. The kids come up and they’re all fascinated, and they touch it and stroke it.”

Many adults don’t warm as quickly to the snake, she added. “In fact, about half of the grown-ups are terrified of the snake, and do not want to touch it at all. Hopefully, the kids will grow up and will not be afraid of snakes, and will pass that on to their kids.”

Way too quickly for most of the people who came to mingle with the animals, the hour was over. But, McGovern reminded them, “They don’t live far away. Come see all of us – and our other friends – at your Oregon Zoo.”

Whooo is it? It’s Rosita, the Oregon Zoo’s traveling western screech owl.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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