By Doug Draper
With a winter cold snap hitting the region and possibly more to follow, how would a bit of tropical warmth mixed in with exotic butterflies and rainforest critters suit you?
Starting this February 11 and running through this coming May 11, the Niagara Parks Commission has all of this warmth and rare and wonderful wildlife wrapped together under the glassed-in dome of its world-renown Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
A special exhibit of wildlife from the rainforest regions of the world, organized by the Ottawa-based Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, rolled in to the Conservatory this past February 10 or a pre-exhibit media appearance.
Kevin Dungey, an expert reptile handler with the zoo company, greeted members of the media beneath the green foliage in the Conservatory with a Reticulated Python wrapped around him and wowed children passing through with their parents with a Crested Gecko and a Scorpion.
“We are about education more than anything else,” said Dungey of the travelling exhibit that delighted visitors with a shorter stint at the Conservatory last winter.
Dungey said none of the animals the company has under its care were captured in the wild. Little Ray’s, he added, is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, rescuers of exotic animals in the country and many of them come from homes where the owners were not properly looking after them.
“We have found alligators in bathtubs,” said Dungey, and we are always stressing to people that these animals don’t beling in homes. We don’t beliee they belong in cages either. We believe they belong in the wild.” But in the cases of animals like these, that have spent most of their lives in homes, the only options left are euthanasia or a zoo that is properly equipped and staffed to care for them, he said.
Staff from Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo will be in Niagara Falls with the exhibit to lead all educational programs and host daily interactive sessions with the animals. Rainforest animals that will be on display include: Common Marmoset, Brazilian Short Tailed Opossum, Emerald Tree Boa, Jungle Carpet Python, Red Footed Tortoise, Emperor Scorpions, Cuviers Dwarf Caiman, Panther Chameleon, White’s Tree Frog and the Reticulated Python.
“We are excited to be able to offer this incredible glimpse at some of the wildlife that can be found in the world’s rainforests,” says Janice Thomson, Chair of The Niagara Parks Commission (NPC). “We hope to use this beautiful exhibit to help educate our guests about the rainforest and its important role in the global ecosystem and the lifestyle and habits of the creatures in the exhibit.”
Entrance to the exhibit is included with admission to the Butterfly Conservatory: $12.95 for adults (ages 13+), $8.25 for children (6-12 years), with children five and under admitted FREE (prices in Cdn. plus tax). Parking is available on-site. The Butterfly Conservatory is currently open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last visitors admitted at 4:30 p.m.) with extended hours on holidays. Call (905) 356-8119 or visit www.niagaraparks.com for more information.
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