By Kira Taylor @kirataylor15
I normally think of books when I think of libraries, so if there are cockroaches crawling about the place something has gone badly wrong …
Today, alongside its normal array of books, DVDs and computers, Exeter Library played host to Exmoor Zoo and some of its furry, feathery and crawling inhabitants. There was a varying number of legs, but the excitement amongst the crowd of little faces was equal for each.
The event was led by an amazingly enthusiastic duo of Stevens, dressed in jungle explorer getup. The Stevens were veterans of animals and libraries, having visited 22 libraries in 8 days last year. They managed to make everything fun, including asking for a cheer for health and safety – something I have never heard before and doubt I will ever hear again.
The event followed exetreme imagination’s theme of “Environment” and particularly focussed on the animals’ environment – how we can make our gardens better for wildlife and save gorillas’ habitat by recycling our phones to reduce mining for specific metals. It was great fun – informative with lots of laughs from both parents and children.
To start with, we were given tiny raisin-sized, light brown cubes, which resembled dried papaya. These, we were told, were insects fossilised in tree sap from thousands of years ago – although they could just have easily been dried papaya, given my knowledge of the Palaeolithic Era.
The first animals were cockroaches. Just the name provokes a disgusted reaction, but we were informed that they spend six hours a day washing and only pick up disease from humans (I must say, they haven’t risen any higher in my appreciation of them!).
We heard some rather weird facts about them: they can live for two weeks without a head and can’t drown. They travelled around the world by boat and sailors ate them to prevent scurvy …
Next we saw a giant African snail. The largest recorded had a shell of 24cm in diameter when it died. Pretending to be snails, we acted out how species become extinct, with wiggly finger antenna, big fat shell actions for giant African snails and aggressive snarls (that sound oddly like a pirate) for the carnivorous snail.
We saw a beautiful tawny owl named Keewick, who flew silently, and a meerkat called Simples – no advertising intended – who has visited so many libraries, he was offered his own library card. Steven #2 became an honourary tree and housed about eight stick insects, some of whom had some pretty nasty spikes.
The millipede was a little too much for me. I’m alright with things with two and four legs, six legs are iffy, eight legs is pushing it. So millipedes … no just no.
We learnt about the impact of non-indigenous species and pesticides on species. We learnt that snails have 40,000 teeth on their tongue, about foodchains and how Shakespeare came up with the famous “twit-twoo” for owls.
The session was accessible for all ages, although I have to say that I’m rather glad I wasn’t picked as a volunteer for anything. The lucky ones who were picked, mostly parents and mostly humiliated parents, got to wear bobbly insect antenna and one particularly unfortunate father had to jump up and down on the spot, imitating a grasshopper for a considerable length of time.
Overall, it was captivating and a brilliant chance to experience the environment around us. It’s so easy to ignore the world around us. Sometimes we just need to have it waving an unspecified number of legs in our face.