Staring through giant underwater windows as the polar bears swam around in the Toronto Zoo is still one of my favourite and iconic childhood memories. Living in Oromocto has its advantages (traffic? What traffic?) but I admit to some sadness at the thought that I won’t get to share that treasured childhood haunt with Amelia.
On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I never got dive-bombed by a bird of prey when I was 2-and-a-half.
Yesterday I joined some friends and took my daughter to the “Dinosaurs: past and present” exhibit by Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo. Judging by the shrieks of delight, I might win Mother of the Year Award (and it’s only January 5th!). Full disclosure: Those same shrieks – my daughter does not suffer from a reserved personality – made it difficult for me to process the information the presenters were imparting. So you’re not going to find many details on the species in this post!
Little Ray’s is located in Ottawa, but they offer travelling interactive exhibits, and this one features a red kangaroo, crocodiles & alligators, a giant tortoise, and some pythons as well as flight bird of prey demos from the Canadian Raptor Conservancy. Plus, skeletons – including a full-size T-Rex skeleton.
This guy was a big hit, and Amelia requested several visits. The staff often had him with his head pointed towards the corner to ensure that the young kids didn’t come too near to his mouth (the only dangerous part of a tortoise). They encouraged the kids to touch his shell and Amelia even got to touch his foot (her evaluation: “Squishy!”).
The tortoise was pulled away to star in one of the presentations, much to Amelia’s dismay. We followed, and Mommy tried desperately to listen to the interesting factoids about crocodiles (or was it an alligator?), but alligators don’t move around much and the fickle 2.5 year-old attention span wandered.Winding our way out of the presentation area, Amelia discovered the pythons.
Opportunities to interact with the animals were frequent, and that’s what made this such a great event for really young kids. Iguanas (“No thank you”) and small snakes (“Bumpy!”) were brought around by their handlers while Amelia was engrossed with the snakes, and her attention was finally diverted by the announcement that there would be birds. (“Owl! Hoo! Hoo!”)
With four (well-trained) different birds of prey allowed to fly around and over the audience, this event was a crowd-pleaser for kids and adults. The announcer was interesting and informative, but preventing my toddler from chasing down the birds occupied much of my attention and I retained little of the (very interesting) show. The price of being a Mommy, I guess.
Amelia and I enjoyed a solid two hours at this event making it well worth the $10 admission (kids 2 and under are free). The staff clearly loved the animals, were informative and good with the kids, the animals are all obviously well-cared for, and it was a wonderful opportunity to interact with some animals that aren’t often thought of as friendly. The presentations promoted understanding and respect for the animals while being educational and fun.
I still want to take Amelia to the Toronto Zoo, but we’re also looking forward to the next time Little Ray’s Zoo is in town.Google+