CANTON With a name like the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, it’s understandably tough to get a break in the animal world.
But to the four "brave volunteers" selected by Malone University Zoo Education Department Leaders Christopher Evans and Kimberly Wise, the appropriately named bugs were not the least bit scary.
"Personally, I like taking people who find things terrifying and scary and turn that into a respect and reverence," Evans said of the Malone Zoo’s live appearances, which include both full, hour-long shows like the one presented March 19 at the Malone campus and smaller presentations held several times a week at churches, schools, daycare centers and various other groups.
"A show like this includes almost every single animal at our zoo," explained Evans, who, like co-leader Wise, is a senior at Malone, majoring in Zoology and Wildlife Biology. He added that Malone’s Zoo Education Department is made up of more than 20 people and is completely volunteer based.
Educational and fun
Evans and Wise introduced the presentation as one meant to both inform and entertain.
"That is the best part to me – seeing (audiences’) reaction when we tell them about things they don’t get to see," Wise said. "We deal with these animals every day, so when we see peoples’ reaction, we also go, ‘wow, they are pretty cool. ' "
For instance, take our sadly maligned hissing cockroach of Madagascar. It is indeed a cockroach, and it does hiss, but it also acts as "the janitor of the rain forest," Evans said.
"So if you like coffee and chocolate, you’ll like the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach," he said, adding that while some of what the cockroach picks up on its body can indeed spread disease to humans, the insect itself cannot.
Up close and personal
The show also included appearances from turtles and tortoises; a Columbian black and white tegus pair; a blue tongued skink; a ball python; a gray rat snake; CJ, the hooded rat; the ferret pair of Velma and Daphne; EB the rabbit; Cinnamon the tarantula; and Aurora the opossum.
After show, attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions of the zoo volunteers and pet the animals.
Matthew Benedict said he had once heard that rats were actually clean and, like the cockroaches, unable to transmit diseases to humans. He said he enjoyed having that information reinforced by the show.
Meanwhile, Sam Benedict - one of the brave cockroach handlers - said Aurora was his favorite part of the show.
"She’s just really cute," he said.