What do a South American armadillo and a Madagascar tenrec have in common?
About 25 children plus a handful of parents, grandparents and supervisors learned that these animals are both nocturnal.
Animals at Night, an Emporia Public Library “A Universe of Stories” summer program, was presented by David Traylor Zoo Education Coordinator Michelle Sagers.
“If you were outside during the nighttime in the dark, there’s a whole bunch of animals that are just waking up,” she said. “It’s like a whole different world out there at nighttime.”
Sagers asked children if they could name nocturnal animals with which they are familiar. Some of the answers shouted out included “owl, raccoon, opossum, aye-aye and bat.”
In the dark room, Sagers flipped through a glow-in-the-dark book about nocturnal animals found in various habitats — forest, desert, beach and more. Children shouted out animals they recognized in the illustrations.
“Can you guys think of a reason why an animal would like to be awake at night instead of during the day?” Sagers asked.
Some of the reasons children provided were that some animals’ eyes were meant for the dark and were too sensitive for the light, it is safer for them to avoid predators and it is too hot during the day.
Sagers brought two animals with which children were able to interact: Dozer, a South American armadillo and Greenie, a Madagascar tenrec.
“The kids always really connect to the live animals and get very excited any time they can see a live animal,” Sagers said after the program. “I think it really helps them connect to nature and make those connections to want to protect our wildlife.”
Children were able to pet the animals and learn about the different kinds of armadillos. In Kansas, there are primarily nine-banded armadillos, in contrast to Dozer’s three-banded nature. Armadillos’ head plates are like human fingerprints — they are unique to each one.
Dozer remained asleep during the 3 o’clock presentation, curled up in a perfect ball. Dozer is about 24 years old, which is on the older side of the average lifespan of armadillos.
The next animal Sagers presented was Greenie, a Madagascar tenrec, who comes from the same family as the common hedgehog.
Greenie woke up from his nap for the presentation, wiggling and sniffing as children petted him.
Tenrec are great climbers, sleeping in tree hollows during the day. During the rainy season, they may hibernate for up to three months. They have little eyes and huge ears.
On top of animal education, Sagers made sure to educate the children on conservation.
“[Tenrecs] aren’t good pets, because we are worried about them becoming endangered in Madagascar,” she said. “[Greenie] was born at the zoo, and he is part of a special program where we breed these guys. Hopefully, if the population ever decreased enough that we needed to send more animals to Madagascar, we could send some of our tenrecs there.”
Sagers asked children how they are able to help animals like this. They were quick to respond that not keeping wild animals as pets, taking care of our environment and learning more about animals and their needs are all ways to help.
Grant Miller, 10, said that his favorite part of the program was petting the animals. Last year, he and his little brother Reed, 8, came to the insect and tarantula program.
“The library puts on a lot of great programs, so we try to come to as many as we can,” parent and teacher Megan Day said.
Children’s Services Coordinator Lori Heller said this nocturnal animals program fit perfectly into this summer’s “A Universe of Stories” theme.
“We always like to partner with other area agencies, bring them in, opportunities for the kids to see live animals and learn a little bit,” Heller said.
“I think it’s important for the community and for the families to learn about the resources that we have available in our community,” Heller said. “Maybe some of our families haven’t ever been to the zoo or don’t know about all of their wonderful educational opportunities that there are through the zoo.”
Other library events coming up include the Kids Koncerts on Wednesdays at noon throughout June and the annual Worm Race, which is at 10 a.m. June 21.