By ROSELLEN DOWNEY
Patches, a mini Rex rabbit that can jump up to 15 feet in the air, was one of four animals that trekked from the St. Louis area to the auditorium of Lee Elementary School on Monday, for the first assembly of the school year. The other animals present were a friendly bull snake named Jerry Lee, Cecilia, the tarantula, and a massive Eurasian eagle owl called Xena.
The presentation was the first joint production of the World Bird Sanctuary and the local field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Dana Lambert, a naturalist in the education department of the World Bird Sanctuary, was on hand to wrangle the animals and describe their unique features to the children. The children were especially enthralled when she clarified some of the myths associated with these animals. For example, the intellectual capacity of Xena and her species has been greatly exaggerated and there is “no such thing as a wise old owl,” Lambert said.
The Fish and Wildlife’s Students, Environment and Endangered Species program is in its fourth year. As Lee Elementary School’s Principal Karen Burger put it, “They were just fascinated.” Becky Clearwater, who is an administrative officer with the Columbia field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that they partner with Lee Elementary School and that activities will continue throughout the 2010-2011 school year. Clearwater said it is an important program because it “creates an interest in the outdoors.”