Posted in animal facts, animals, Astrology, biodiversity, ecology, education, Entertainment, environment, nature, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Astrological Animals: A Fun Animal Facts Recap

By Katie Gill

This week we look to the stars. Our theme is Astrological Animals, the creatures featured in the Zodiac. Fortunately for us, there are seven signs that correspond with animals.

We will be taking a week or two off from Fun Animal Facts, since we have a move coming up and things are HECTIC. I do have the next theme picked out, though: Boys Versus Girls. We’ll see you then.

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Nature’s Cleaning Crew: Fun Animal Facts

By Katie Gill

 

Today we focus on creatures who keep the world clean and healthy.

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vultures

Stinky the Vulture

stinky-vulture-4

Through a generous donation, we now have a vulture character to add to our cast of talking critters. Vultures are interesting animals in that they are scavengers, eating dead animals.  Biologists widely consider the vulture a member of “nature’s sanitation crew” along with many other “garbage eaters” like raccoons, skunks, opossums, termites, maggots and a wide variety of other creatures.

So why is a garbage eater a good thing? Well, in the case of the vulture, they essentially help get rid of the carcasses of dead animals.  Without them, it would take a terribly long time for a dead animal to rot away.  They would pile up and thusly spread diseases and fill the air with terrible odors.  Vultures speed up the process, eating the tissues and reducing the carcass to bones.

It was fitting, I felt, that we name our vulture character Stinky. As per his backstory, he will help run the Nature’s Sanitation Crew and spread the message about the good these birds and other animals in the ‘crew’ do for the environment.

Of course, the costume (just the mask and the feet in this case) were designed to be scary, something more for Halloween than nature programs. It was created by Zagone Studios, a very spooky and wild Halloween accessory company specializing in adult sized costumes and masks.  Their vulture, along with a wide variety of monsters, werewolves/big bad wolves, spooky styled birds and even a crazed chicken, is sure to send a chill up the spine of passersby on Halloween night.  So how does one take a scary costume and turn it friendly?

Well, it’s not going to be easy. Vultures, to start with, aren’t pretty birds.  This is especially true of turkey vultures with their big red featherless heads.  And while Zagone didn’t make the mask monstrous, the realism and large eyes are a real sight.  I worked on refurbishing an old black-furred body suit that was donated to us a year ago and made a set of black and gray tail feathers and winged gloves.  Once I had all of that completed, I had to figure out his outfit and get a preliminary photo/video. I thought at first he would look good in an old leather jacket with a red t-shit with a hawk’s face on it underneath but it made him look too much like a punk.

We picked up a plain white shirt and a tan outdoorsy vest today which we’ll try on soon. We’re hoping he’ll look a bit more approachable this way.  Of course, that still leaves his mask.  We might give him a hat or bandana to wear and repaint parts of the eyes—carefully of course so I can still see out of it while in the mask.  And, we might change the voice.  I initially pictured Stinky having a rough, gravelly voice with a hint of a Brooklyn accent but that might still come off as scary from this sort of character.  I might have to really think this over.

Any suggestions?

Stinky the Vulture will debut sometime in late October.

Stay wild!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, Aquatic Life, Arts, biodiversity, birds, Carnivore, children's books, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Herbivore, Mammals, Marsupials, Multimedia, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, Reptiles, storrytelling, talking mascots, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, wolves

The Wildlife Educators Coalition at Rochester’s Fringe Fest 2016

Several months ago, we were asked to be a part of this year’s Fringe Fest. I was quite excited at the prospect of being a part of one of Rochester’s biggest art and performance festivals. We were going to hold two shows, both taking place at the MuCCC on Atlantic Ave. The first was our Animal Expo, an interactive forum, of sorts, in which our animal wranglers explain everything about the various species they were displaying.  I originally was to cover the intermission with a howling demo as our wolf, Howler while set up started for the animal improve comedy, “Cletus’s Critter Corner.”

Plans shifted slightly by the time I arrived this morning. They scrapped the intermission and put me into the Expo, right between the segment on the various birds and before Bu, the serval cat. It was also decided that the Expo would be done in sort of an interview format, with Matt, our emcee, bringing us out on stage and asking us questions and engaging the audience.

With that in mind, I wandered into the front of the house and into the lobby, mingling with guests as they waited for gates to open. Howler was a hit; the prospect of a talking wolf posing with people for photos was too good to pass up.  I did a quick stop out front of the building to wave in folks who were making their way over.  And, just before 11am, I darted back to the green room and warmed up my vocal chords as the reptiles took the stage.

The crowd was thrilled, especially when the talkative exotic birds showed off their stuff during their segment. Once they were finished squawking, Matt announced, “Right, so our next animal is one that used to roam most of the United Sates but not so much now, and he’s one of the biggest carnivores around.  So let’s bring out the wolf!”  And out I dashed, sliding a bit on the smooth stage surface.  The crowd was alive with gasps of surprise, cheers and shrieks of excitement from the kids.

Matt and I hit it off well. He rattled off questions and I gave in depth yet digestible answers, trying to keep myself peppy and making use of the stage.  It felt good to use my improv skills again, something I haven’t done on stage since college.  This was especially good because none of this was rehearsed.

Finally, matt asked the question he had been asking all of the other animal presenters. “Would you make a good pet?”

I glanced about my audience, wondering if anyone was actually going to say ‘yes.’ I responded with a solid, “No. First of all, we STINK.  Secondly, it’s illegal.  Thirdly, we make terrible guard dogs because we’re terrified of people.”

“What about getting a hybrid wolf-dog from breeders?”

“That’s not a good idea,” I replied. “You have two instincts in a hybrid’s head.  The wild side and the domestic side, and they don’t mix well.  So sometimes, that can make them terribly aggressive.”

The crowd took some time to digest that in. so Matt took the opportunity to ask, “What does the wolf say?”

I demonstrated the Lonesome Howl, one of the easiest ones for me to do. Katie managed to get this on video, so I’ll let that speak for itself.

We will be returning to the MuCCC in December for another show and next year, we will be returning to the Fringe Fest. I really cannot wait.

Posted in animal facts, animals, Arts, biodiversity, ecology, education, Entertainment, environment, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Video Games, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Animals in Video Games: A Fun Animal Facts Recap

By Katie Gill (as are all the other Fun Animal Facts recaps)

Since I was 3 or 4, I was enamored with video games. They were the chosen group activity for me, my dad and my sister. Funny that my mom never got too into them, but I can see why, when you have a 4 year old yelling at you for not being able to play as well as her, you wouldn’t be interested in spending your valuable time undertaking that task. (And, yes, this is anecdotal evidence that I had a Type A personality early on.) I’ve often joked that the Wii motion controls came about because there were a bunch of people like my dad who would kick the air and twist their bodies while playing games because they were so immersed in them. Now that I’m pushing 30, I don’t have the time or money to commit to gaming that I used to, but I’m still a fan, especially of the Nintendo classics I grew up with like Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong.

It’s funny, a lot of people have been praising Animal School since we launched its most recent iteration in May, saying they’re glad we’re trying to get kids engaged with nature and the outdoors, keeping them from staying inside all day playing videogames. Now, I understand not wanting kids to be sickly pale from staying indoors all the time, ending up with poor social skills, limited interests or anger issues from not having a proper variety of outlets, but that composite is a stereotype of gamers; the exception, not the rule.

Sadly, there are a lot of never-really-going-to-be adults who fit that mold, but in reality, we all play games. This is probably the first or second generation, to my delight, that grew up with video games and will be teaching its kids how to play them. Family time has become digital, and that’s not a bad thing. Yes, you can spend too much time gaming (I remember, as a preteen, playing Spyro the Dragon for so long one day that stationary objects on screen started to move, and marathoning Tomba 2 with my sister for 8 or 9 hours one weekend, with Dr. Pepper being our beverage of choice), but an hour or two a day of playing video games, as long as you move around regularly and take care of everything in your life that needs to be tended to, can be a great outlet and even, as counterintuitive as it sounds, a means of socializing.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned on my blog, Scumbling Up Art, the benefits of casual gaming, including increased problem solving skills, concentration, spacial reasoning, dexterity, creativity and hand-eye coordination, but we’re not here to discuss the merits of video games, we’re here for the animals!

Therefore, without further ado, here is this week’s Fun Animal Facts recap: 

  • Crash Bandicoot actually shares little resemblance to the Eastern Barred Bandicoot of Australia that he is based on. ebbtpgif.pngImage from http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=965
  • Starfish don’t attack prey by shuridkc2spinning at them like they do in the Donkey Kong Country franchise. Rather, since their mouths are at the center of their underbellies, starfish tend to wrap themselves around prey and envelop meals.
  • Like Super Mario, flying squirrels can glide between trees using the cape-like membranes between their front and back legs. Image fromnsmbu-mario-flying-squirrel-suit281290-004-19cd3ba7https://t.co/XHzZ6RqSzO https://t.co/gE6H53NSlq
  • Several Pokemon are based on real animals. Caterpie and Poliwag, for example, are an Eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar and translucent Costa Rican tadpole in real life.tumblr_o11c10qweg1u38l26o6_1280poliwag_complete
  • Like in Minecraft, wild horses gather in groups, usually in packs of 3 to 20.horse-breeding_thbImage from https://t.co/YxjJ22DTSo
  • The Loftwings in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword are modeled after Shoebills, which we have mentioned in FAF before. Moreover, all members of the Knights Academy, besides Zelda and Link, have names related to birds.15Karane = Crane
    Groose = Goose
    Gaepora is clearly based off of the owl in Ocarina of Time
    Owlan = Owl
    Horwell = Hornbill or Horned Owl
    Cawlin = Macaw
    Fledge = Fledgling
    Pipit = Pipit
    Stritch = Ostrich
    Henya = Hen (like a mother hen to the students)
    and Phoeni (the arm coming out of the toilet) = Phoenix, a fictional bird

Apparently, I only did six days instead of seven this time, but hopefully there’s enough meat in those facts to hold you over until next week.

Stay wild, my friends!

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Fun Animal Facts Recap: Odd Animal Out

This recap focuses on animals that don’t fit the molds of their respective families. Each marches to the beat of its own drum, and we love it for that!

  • There are more than 60 species of flightless birds still in existence, including ratites (emus, ostriches, kiwis, rheas, cassowaries) and penguins!
  • platThere are only two mammals that lay eggs, duck-billed platypuses and echidnas.echidImages from https://t.co/enKGlZ8zw3 and https://t.co/eeCDOoy0y6
  • The yeti crab, Kiwa hirsuta, is a hairy, eyeless crab that was discovered in 2005 near yeti crabEaster Island.Image from https://t.co/bZlLqgvaWc
  • Maned wolves are South America’s largest canids. They look like foxes or wolves, but maned wolfare their own species, belonging to the Chrysocyon genus!Image from https://t.co/9FuCodKdPq
  • The gerenuk, also known as the giraffe gazelle, is a long-necked antelope found in the gerenukHorn of Africa and the African Great Lakes region.Image from http://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/gerenuk
  • Glasswing Butterflies live in South America and have glass butterflytransparent wings that help them evade predators.Image from the California Academy of Sciences
  • The Japanese Spider Crab is the world’s largest arthropod. It can grow to over 12 feet and up to 42 pounds!spider crabImage from https://theethogram.com/…/featured-creature-japanese-spide…/

 

 

BONUS: Here are two pictures of the Wildlife Educators Coalition’s three-toed Texas box turtle. It is older than Katie.

box1box 2