Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wildlife Encounters: Plant Helpers

Last Thursday, the entire second grade was treated to an encore presentation from Wildlife Encounters. Again, this wonderful organization brought several animals to SMS, this time with a focus on how animals contribute to the plants of our ecosystem.

The first animal we were introduced to was an amphibian. The White Tree Frog is responsible for eating insects that would otherwise harm plants. Found in Australia, the White Tree Frog, actually isn't white at all! It can be found in shades of back, brown, or even purple!

Once the frog was placed back in its container, Kirby introduced us to a familiar animal: the Six-Banded Armadillo! In the fall, we met a three-banded armadillo, but unlike that interesting animal, Tatu and other six-banded armadillos cannot role up into a ball (they have too much flubber on their bellies!). Tatu also has the important job of pest control. Searching for termites and worms, he gives the soil a good mixing while digging for his food.

Once Tatu was placed safely back into his cage, Kirby and Kat brought out another familiar critter: a Mini Lop Bunny named Iris. This cuddly, sweet animal originates from Holland and is a seed disperser. She eats the seeds of fruits and vegetables, hops away, and then poops the seed out in a new location.

After Iris went back in her cage, we were introduced to a second grade favorite: The North American Porcupine. Hollywood was a crowd-pleaser from the start and was happy to show off his ability to snatch peanuts for a delicious snack! Porcupines are great climbers and are often found in trees. Porcupines have extremely poor vision and are very slow moving, which would cause them to be quite defenseless without their quills (although fisher cats have quickly discovered that porcupines have no quills on their bellies!). Porcupines are strictly herbivores and are also seed disperses and are responsible for the spreading of many tree seeds. 

While we were sad to say goodbye to Hollywood, we enjoyed meeting the next animal: Grumpy Gus, the Argus Monitor Lizard. This Australian animal is another animal responsible for insect control. Its large throat pouch, loud hissing sound, and ability to stand on its back legs makes it appear big and scary to its predators. While we didn't get to see him standing on his back legs, we were able to hear his hissing noises when we listened carefully.

The final animal we were introduced to, which holds a special place in my heart, was a Chinchilla! Native to the Andes Mountain Range, these animals are their own farmers! They have the ability to grow their own food! Living in a volcanic habitat, their food source is often wiped out by lava flow. To rebuild their home, chinchillas hop down the mountains, eat plants, hop back up the mountain, poop (up to 50 times a day!) and use their large back feed to "plant" the discarded seeds. Pretty impressive for little balls of fluff!

after the presentation was complete and we had met all of Kirby and Kat's animal friends, we were allowed to use a "two-finger touch" to pet the argus monitor lizard and the chinchilla! So fun! Thank you again to Wildlife Encounters for sharing your animals and your knowledge with us! 

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