Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
Back to School

     Education is an important part of our program, and this past week it was put to the test. Every year the Instituto Tecnológico Superior sponsors an annual science and technology fair. This year it was held at the old train depot in Chapala, now beautifully restored and serves as museum and cultural center.
     It was wonderful to see so many children eager to learn more about wildlife and the environment. Approx. 3,000 children attended the three-day event. The most popular animal was St. Jude, our large boa. The children were enamored with her, everyone wanted to hold her, but only a few per class got that privilege as there were just too many children; not surprisingly she was the most photographed. Amazingly the 99% of the kids were not afraid of her. Yes there were a few schoolgirl screams and drama queens, but when asked who wanted to hold her, they were at the front of the line.
     Today’s technology has opened the doors to better education, with most homes having cable TV and the children are watching more nature based programs on channels like the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. More people are realizing how important this reptile really is. There is also a growing fascination with snakes in general. Snakes are becoming one of the most popular pets. They can be very low maintenance, especially in comparison to more traditional pets. Snakes require minimal space; the most popular species do not exceed five feet in length. Pet snakes can be fed relatively infrequently, usually once every five to ten days depending upon the age and species.
     Some snakes have a life span of more than forty years if given proper care. No litter box to clean or daily walks—rain or shine. While snakes don’t shed like cats and dogs, they do shed their skin; an older snake may shed its skin only once or twice a year while a younger, still-growing snake, may shed several times a year. This periodic renewal has led to the snake being a symbol of healing and medicine, as pictured in the Rod of Asclepius.
     It is hard to say which was the second most popular animal, Harry the Hawk, handsome and majestic, gave Pele Roja, the adorable baby coatimundi, some serious competition. Harry is always a hit and being the ham that he is, Harry was more than happy to hop from one arm to another. It was fun watching huge smiles of pride erupt from the faces of the children. On the other hand the smiles turned into hysterical laughter as they watched Pele Roja running and jumping up and down and side to side as if she was practicing kung-fu moves, at lightning speed.
     The event was a bit long and arduous, but well-worth attending. It was gratifying to see the subtle changes in the way the younger generations regard wildlife; they are taking more pride in their country’s biodiversity and rightly so. Mexico ranks fourth in the world, and Jalisco is third in the country. Pretty impressive.
     We thank all our wonderful volunteers who helped at the fair; and a special thank you to Richard Bray and Jorge Valencia, who spent hours  talking to the children and explaining the new laws to them.