Bugs, birds and reptiles at the library

Library hosts animal-education show with visiting naturalist

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

Lauren Doubek, a naturalist with Animal Tales Southeast, visited the Jefferson County R.J. Bailar Public Library on Thursday, Oct. 31 to display various animals, reptiles and bugs to an audience of children and parents.
Doubek's crew of animal stars ranged in species from all around the world, including a frog from the rainforest to a giant lizard that is currently an invasive species throughout several Florida communities.
The theme of this animal show was to introduce Doubek's audience to a variety of "creepy crawler" animals, such as lizards, snakes, giant bugs and rats.
One of the fascinating creatures that Doubek showed off was a palm-sized cockroach identified as a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.
One of the largest species of cockroaches, the big bug can reach up to three inches long and tends to inhabit the rotting tree debris that falls to the floor of the Madagascar jungle.
Unlike some North American roach species, the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is wingless and is not considered a pest; since the big cockroach prefers living beneath rotten logs and forest floors, they aren't likely to choose to dwell in human homes.
An intriguing aspect of the cockroach is the loud 'hiss' that the Madagascar bug emits. The noise is what gives the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach its name and is produced when the cockroach releases air from its abdomen.
Those brave enough to touch the bug were given a chance to hold and pet the massive cockroach, with Doubek assuring them that the insect was not capable of biting.
While less exotic than a hissing cockroach, Doubek also fascinated her audience with a familiar household rodent – a rat.
Blondie, a large white and tan rat, was introduced to the library audience, while Doubek spoke on the intelligence of the large rodent.
While rats have long held a reputation as nasty, disease-carrying pests, Doubek allowed her audience a chance to learn the positive attributes of a rat.
While rats have been carriers of disease and plague throughout history and are still a common household pest, rats are also incredibly intelligent and affectionate pets.
With Doubek's assistance, Blondie performed a balancing trick that showcased her ability to follow her handler's commands and walk across a narrow platform.
Aside from rats and cockroaches, Doubek showcased a variety of other animals and reptiles, such as a large boa, an Argentine Black and White Tegu, a Von der Decken Hornbill and a tropical frog – amongst others!
Lauren Doubek is a naturalist and animal presenter with Animal Tales Southeast, an animal education company based in Pensacola, Fla. The company provides safe and entertaining animal shows for schools, libraries and groups throughout Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
For more information about Animal Tales and their programs, visit animaledzoocation.com.