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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
The Islington Branch Library played host to Michelle’s Menagerie, an animal show hosted by longtime wildlife educator Michelle DeBye, on Thursday afternoon. While DeBye has many different animal shows, Thursday’s edition featured a wide variety of reptiles, mainly lizards and snakes, for the packed room of kids to learn about.
DeBye started the day off by showing the crowd a number of different types of lizard. After showing off a gecko, DeBye brought out a fifteen-year-old blue-tongued skink and talked about how it used its uniquely colored tongue to make predators think it’s poisonous. Then, an Egyptian desert lizard led DeBye to ask the group what part of a plant the lizard might eat. Despite guesses of virtually every plant part, from flower petals to the stem, leaves and roots, the answer was that the lizard eats seeds. Finally, DeBye brought out what she considers the best lizard to have as a pet: the bearded dragon.
DeBye asked the crowd what the bearded dragon eats, with a boy correctly guessing “crickets.” This led the rest of the young crowd members to guess a ton of different types of bugs, leading DeBye to ask for a non-insect guess. While the crowd was stumped, DeBye informed them that since “it would take a whole lot of crickets to feed him, he’s so big,” she feeds her bearded dragon “romaine lettuce, newborn baby rats and small mice” - a declaration that likely killed off any chances the children in the crowd had at getting one as their new pet.
Next, DeBye brought out the three-toed box turtle. Despite its name, DeBye noted that on its back legs, the turtle has three toes, but on its front legs it has five. Thus, the three-toed box turtle actually has sixteen toes, in total. As for the box aspect, the turtle can clamp its shell vertically, almost sealing itself like a box. DeBye also told the crowd that because people tend to run into these turtles on the road, if someone wants to stop the car and help the animal, they should gently nudge them to the other side of the road. For this purpose, DeBye has a snow shovel in her car to scoop them up and carry them across.
To end the show, DeBye brought out a pair of snakes: a ball python and a Stimson’s python, as well as a giant snakeskin from a reticulated python. This last snake was the only animal the children were allowed to touch, but first, DeBye held a brief question-and-answer period.
After fielding a couple of non-questions, which were mainly stories about the kids’ own animal encounters, DeBye explained that she was looking for questions, as in “something I’ve always wondered is.” Soon after, she got her first question, but it wasn’t exactly what she was looking for. A young boy in the crowd raised his hand and queried: “Can I pet the bearded dragon?”
The answer was “no, you can only pet the snake.”
Soon after, a girl asked about how old her snake was, which led to DeBye talking about where she got it (it was dropped off at her doorstep). Next, the children lined up and were allowed to both pet the snake and pick up a free coloring page about reptiles.
While the kids in the crowd might not be getting their own lizards for pets any time soon, they still got to see some unique animals up close, which is just as good - and from a parent’s perspective, even better.