Area wildlife experts present exotic animals to students

Saturday, January 6, 2007
Larry Battson walks around with a 40-pound African monitor lizard as he exhibits it to the third grade class at Tzouanakis Intermediate School.

The animals of the Battson Wildlife Education Services and the third grade students of Tzouanakis Intermediate School both received a treat yesterday. The third grade students and teachers of Tzouanakis Intermediate School were wowed by a wildlife presentation from Larry Battson and his wife Cheryl.

Larry Battson's show mixed humor and education as he and his wife exhibited a large lizard, a monkey, an exotic cat and other animals.

Battson has been teaching students about wildlife with the use of live animals for more than 30 years. He insists that his animals are not performing animals but are used for learning purposes.

At his home he houses more than 60 different types of animals ranging from alligators to tigers. Battson credits his wife a lot during the show for the love and time to become an animal's friend.

It is the friendship the two of them make with the animals that drives the show. To Battson, his animal friends are just as scared of humans as we are with them sometimes. Only knowledge about these special animals will reduce the fear we have and hopefully save some from extinction.

The children were on the edge of their seats the entire time, especially when Battson carried a large 40 pound African monitor lizard around the room. As he walked he described the lizard's habitat, what they eat, and other species of monitor lizards around the world.

"I could not read enough, get enough information about dinosaurs. The monitor is the modern day dinosaur and I love them," Battson said.

Another highlight was when third grader Jeffrey Smiley was handpicked to hold a 5-foot boa constrictor. He held his arms out like a tree as Battson draped the snake around him. Upon returning to his seat Jeffrey was asked by other children if he was scared. He nodded yes. But that was the point of Battson's presentation.

One child asked, "do you like your job?" Battson replied, "It is a lot of fun, it is rewarding and it is cleaning a lot of poop."

The children enjoyed the response as they all laughed and giggled.

Julie Stevens, a third grade social studies teacher at Tzouanakis, said, "the students have been learning about the different characteristics of animals, their habitats, the food chain and how important the water cycle is for the survival of animals."

They also have been discussing the difference between how land and water animals breathe and the bone structure of various animals.

The presentation was organized by Janean Edwards, a third grade science teacher at Tzouanakis.

The Battsons will return next Friday to teach a workshop on how to write a book.

Several years ago Cheryl wrote a children's book Baxter the Edugator with Battson doing all the illustrations.

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