Fur, feathers and forked tongues brought on a series of fascinated gasps from crowds of enthralled youngsters in two Red Deer schools on Thursday.
Earth Rangers, a national conservation organization geared for children, made a stop at Joseph Welsh and Mountview elementary schools to talk about Canadian wildlife and the importance in protecting endangered species.
Students had the chance to get up close and personal with creatures, known as the Earth Rangers’ “animal ambassadors.”
Sonic, a milky white European barn owl, charmed the 450 students from Grades 1 to 5 at Mountview as he chatted from his perch on Laura Huculak’s hand before silently soaring across the gym for a treat.
They also met Diego, a black and white tegu (a large lizard), and let a out a collective gasp when she revealed her serpent-like tongue and long tail.
Timber, an American pine marten from the weasel family, demonstrated her climbing capabilities to the groups and Kateri, a peregrine falcon, also stretched her feathers for a swift flight test.
Earth Rangers educators Amanda Brown and Huculak talked about the challenges that species such as the beluga whale and barn swallow face in today’s constantly changing world and what everyone can do to make a difference.
“These animals we have here today, they have cousins out in the wild that are at risk of disappearing forever,” Brown said. “But there are things we can do, which is why we have our Bring Back the Wild campaign.”
The goal of Bring Back the Wild is to educate and inspire children about biodiversity loss as well as provide tools to help them protect animals at risk of extinction across Canada.
Earth Rangers visits about 550 school across the country each year and since launching Bring Back the Wild in September 2010, more than 200,000 children have participated.
Brown talked about Canada’s dwindling numbers when it comes to the western bumblebee and Blanding’s turtles, thanks to factors such as habitat loss, invasive species, climate change and pesticides.
The presenters said students can do their part by signing up to become an Earth Ranger online.
Their first mission will be to complete a Bring Back the Wild fundraising campaign to help save an animal. Other missions include things like a battery recycling program in the house or climate change mitigation exercises.
Classes also received a catalogue of Earth Rangers science-related resources for educators that offer curriculum-linked activities and lesson plans for follow up after the show.
“Environmental awareness and endangered species is something we’re all interested in,” said Mountview principal Cathy Gukert. “We’re always trying to talk to our students about being more environmentally conscious so this fit well.”