homepage logo

Creepy crawlies: Kids learn about Critters and Conservation at annual library event

By Staff | Jun 28, 2019

Critters and Conservation employee Jill Fleet holds out a Burmese python for children to pet in the War Memorial Building on Tuesday morning. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened,” wrote author Anatole France. And for children in Shepherdstown Public Library’s summer reading program, that love for animals was given a jump start on Tuesday morning, as children got to meet, learn about and touch animals from Critters and Conservation Live Animal Shows at the War Memorial Building.

The program was one of several that Critters and Conservation has done over the years, in conjunction with the summer reading program. But this year’s program featured a unique selection of animals, according to Children’s Librarian Tara Carlisle.

“Animal programs really bring the crowds — children and adults like to learn about animals,” Carlisle said, mentioning 79 people attended Tuesday’s event. “It’s just exciting to see them get to learn about animals. Jill talked about the first four animals she brought, and then the last one she let them pet.

“Since our theme is ‘A Universe of Stories,’ I asked her what sort of odd or alien-like or otherworldly animals she could bring today,” Carlisle said. “She did a good job talking about the unusual things about the animals that people might want to know.”

Out of the 50 animal species owned by Critters and Conservation, the five animals attendees saw were a South American Horned Frog, a legless lizard, a toucan, a tegu and a Burmese python, which was the animal attendees also got to pet at the end of the event.

A toucan relaxes in his cage at the Critters and Conservation live animal show in the War Memorial Building on Tuesday morning. Tabitha Johnston

“This is definitely the best job I’ve ever had — it’s almost like a vacation when I work. I have three little boys at home, so a bunch of kids don’t challenge me,” said Critters and Conservation employee Jill Fleet. “You can get kids unafraid of tarantulas and spiders and snakes and things like that, through the education process. You can get rid of those irrational fears at a young age, by educating them.”

For nine-year-old Kayla Besaw, the success of that morning’s education process was evident, as she petted the Burmese python.

“It’s not venomous. I was still scared, but I touched the back of it. I don’t know why, but I think the python and Blue the legless lizard were my favorites,” Besaw said. “I thought everything was fun about it.”

Besaw is staying for two weeks this summer with her grandfather, Eddie Landrum, of Shepherdstown. According to Landrum, Besaw has said she would like to be a veterinarian someday, so attending the event was a good idea.

“She talks about wanting to be a veterinarian,” Landrum said. “This event will hopefully make the kids interested in science, and how exotic creatures may be similar to ones we have here.”

To learn more about the summer reading program, visit www.lib.shepherdstown.wv.us/ or call 304-876-2783.