Omaha’s renowned Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is more than two hours from Hastings by automobile. To make the trip more accessible to more local children, Hastings Public Library brought the zoo here.
The Henry Doorly Zoo, working with the library, taught kids about the unique traits of animals at the Hastings City Auditorium on Monday.
The program was originally going to be held at the library, but interest in the “Zoo to You” event was so big the library moved it and added a second session after the first.
The presentation was based on a narrative that the spaceship HDZ Millennium Elephant was traveling with animals when Captain Gabby said she noticed some odd behavior; the elk were losing antlers, spiders were duplicating and the snake wasn’t eating. The captain said she was worried the animals may have a Martian flu, but a zookeeper from the Henry-Doorly zoo taught her and the audience how adaptation was natural, even if it seemed odd.
The presentation was specifically tailored to fit with the library’s summer theme of space.
The captain started with an almost four-foot long elk antler. The captain said she found the antlers on the ground one morning and thought the elk may have been sick. The zookeeper explained that elk naturally lose their antlers.
“They have big horns,” said Anyelo Hernandez, one of the kids who came to watch the program. The antlers were about as talk as him.
Anyelo came with a group from Head Start Child and Family Development. Anyelo and everyone else had a chance to touch the Honduran milk snake and Eastern box turtle.
“It was squishy,” Anyelo said, talking about the milk snake.
The zoo also brought a Chilean tarantula. The spaceship captain said the spider had duplicated one night, but the zookeeper said it was the spider’s molted exoskeleton. She said spiders molt because it needs to shed its exoskeleton before it can grow. Kids did not get to touch the tarantula because they have hairs that can cause irritation.
“The spider seems creepy and crawly,” said Axel Gonzalez, another kid from the Head Start group.
The zoo talked about some of their aquatic animals, like sharks and penguins, but substituted them with stuffed animals. They did bring shark teeth, as the captain was worried about her shark’s teeth falling out. The zookeeper said it was normal for shark to lose teeth.
“The shark tooth was pointy,” Axel said.
The presenters talked about animal conservation and being environmentally conscious. Kids guessed how many people were killed by sharks every year, with answers ranging from six to 25,000. The zookeeper said sharks killed only four people but humans killed millions of sharks.
“They have to be more afraid of us,” the zookeeper said.
The zoo also brought animal furs, sharks skin and a turtle shell that the animals could touch at the end of the presentation.
Kristy Hruska, HPL librarian, set up the zoo visit to give kids a chance to see animals they may not be able to experience because of the long distance.
“I just thought it would be really neat to have the zoo come and have a program here to give an opportunity to kids who might not necessarily be able to get there to see it,” Hruska said.
Hruska said this was the first time library brought the zoo to Hastings, but the Hastings Museum has brought them over before.
“It’s such a great opportunity to get to see and touch animals that they might not otherwise get to, along with the educational aspect — being able to learn about different animals in an environment that is fun,” Hruska said.
About 100 people attended the first session.