ELLERBE — Kids at Kemp Memorial Library were treated to a science show Wednesday morning featuring live local reptiles, exotic African species — and even a tarantula.
Daphne Reeder, director of operations for Cold-Blooded Encounters — a traveling reptile zoo and science center based in Troutman — thrilled an audience of around 35 kids and adults while educating them about certain cold-blooded animals from various parts of the world.
“So I’ve come to surprise you today by bringing 10 live animals,” Reeder said.
The children’s eyes widened and kids began to chatter loudly throughout the room.
“But before we start, I have a few rules,” Reeder said. “Let’s start with a question. Do we want to scare any of our friends?”
“No,” the children said in unison.
“And my friends, of course, I mean these guys back here,” Reeder said, motioning to the animals she brought with her.
All the children were seated on the carpeted floor of the library, some with open mouths and wide eyes as Reeder hinted at the types of animals the children were about to make friends with.
“And instead of standing here, I’m going to be bringing the animals out to you,” she said. “I’m going to make sure they get up close to you so that you can see them. If you guys get scared, just close your eyes and I’ll move on away.”
Reeder explained that there is a difference in warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals and asked kids in the audience to raise their hands if they could name a cold-blooded animal.
“Snakes,” one boy said
“Yes, snakes are cold-blooded. They are reptiles, and all reptiles are cold-blooded,” Reeder said.
“Birds,” said one child.
“Well,” Reeder said, “that is an interesting question because birds have been found to be kinds of reptiles. But they are capable of generating their own body heat.”
Reeder removed a palm-sized tarantula from a pet carrier and placed it on her hand, stroking its back and causing children on the front two rows to scoot back as far as they could without landing in anyone else’s lap. Reeder also reminded everyone to be as quiet as possible.
“Tarantulas are very fragile,” she explained. “If I were to drop one from this height, it would crack right down the middle and we don’t want that to happen. So I am going to walk out among you. I’m lucky I took ballet.”
Once the children got a closer look at the tarantula, their trepidation seemed to diminish slightly, but there were still several who felt it best to duck behind a friend as Reeder passed by.
Reeder also showed the children a Carolina box turtle.
“This fellow is about 20 years old,” she said. “But these turtles live for a long, long time. They often live for over 200 years.”
The audible gasps and wide eyes of the audience expressed both delight and disbelief.
“They are not like hermit crabs,” Reeder said. “Do you see this shell he is in? Everyone touch your spine.”
The children all reached behind them and traced their spines.
“Well, this turtle’s spine is fused to its shell,” Reeder said. “That means it is part of his body. Turtles do not leave their shells, and the shells grow with them. And if you pet a turtle on his shell, he feels it with his whole body.”
Reeder got a much more favorable response as she moved through the audience, letting people touch the box turtle.
Later, Reeder introduced the children to two types of lizards and two types of snakes. The lizards got a mixed reaction, but the snakes were the main attraction.
“This one is known as a royal python, also called a ball python,” Reeder said. “Has anyone heard of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt? Well, she used to wear these pythons on her lower arms as bracelets.”
Once the snakes were put back inside their comfy cotton bags, Reeder allowed the children to line up so they could walk past the table where the animals were on display, letting them take turns getting a closer look.
Library manager Shannon Hearne said she felt lucky Kemp Memorial was able to host the traveling science show.
“I actually found it on Groupon,” Hearne said. “And we had a little money to use and we got them. This is a great program.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.