People flock to mini-zoo shows at Macon museum

jmink@macon.comAugust 3, 2013 

Campbell Hetes isn’t afraid.

At 19 months old, Campbell toddled toward the thing that many others didn’t dare touch.

“She doesn’t really know what she was touching,” her grandmother, Barbara Smith, said.

It’s not uncommon for adults to recoil and children to bounce forward during animal shows at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon. About 30 people packed the mini zoo Saturday, gawking at birds, turtles, ferrets and other exotic animals.

“They experience things they wouldn’t get to experience outside normally,” said Janae Matthews, animal assistant. “It’s kind of a learning experience.”

It was educational for the group of parents and children, who learned that ferrets sleep about 19 hours a day; the resident turtle in the zoo is 52 years old; and the story of the Colombian boa, which was found in a Warner Robins woman’s yard.

“She went in the house, grabbed a BB gun and shot him,” Matthews said. “He’s actually missing an eye and is blind in another.”

The long snake, which coiled around Matthews’ waist and back as she talked, was Cole Hestes’ favorite part of the show. Not only did the 8-year-old from Macon pet the snake, but he learned some facts about it.

“It had diamonds on it,” he said. “It was ... very big. It was 6 feet long.”

In a small, dark room that resembled and sounded like a jungle, with birds squawking and lizards crawling in their cages, Matthews brought several animals from a back room. Four-year-old Lorae Moore eased toward a large turtle and then jumped back when it acted like it might snap. However, her sister, 8-year-old Layla Moore, reached out and touched the turtle.

“I just like animals,” she said.

While children crowded around the turtle and the ferret, just as many scurried forward to pet the snake. Matthews has witnessed some amusing reactions when the snake comes through the doors, she said.

“I’ve had grown men jump from the bleachers and take off running out the door,” she said. “He is the showstopper.”

A close second to the snake would be the hissing cockroaches. Some audience members gasped as Matthews opened her hand to reveal the giant roach. While several children jumped forward to touch it, others stayed back -- but not Campbell.

With a pink bow in her hair and cherries on her dress, she reached out her tiny hand and ran a finger across the roach.

“It’s much more up close and personal,” Matthews said about the shows.

The animal shows are 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. The shows are included with museum admission, according to the museum website.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.


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