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Animal party at Bidwell sheds light on endangerment

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Published 2011-05-10T17:16:00Z”/>


Tim Kerber

Every man, woman and child in the 60-person line waited eagerly for their turn to pet the rough scales of a North American alligator during Butte Environmental Council’s 31st Annual Endangered Species Faire at Cedar Grove in Bidwell Park Saturday.

The 28-year-old, 110-pound and 6-foot-6-inch alligator was presented by Wild Things, Inc., during an educational segment of the fair.

Children wearing cat ears, dog ears, antennae, feathers and face paint also gasped in awe at the red kangaroo, black-throated monitor lizard, American crocodile, great horned owl and the African crested porcupine.

Wild Things, Inc. is a non-profit rescue center that usually works with school programs. They house more than 60 different species of animals, work very closely with California Department of Fish and Game and have been attending the Endangered Species Faire since 1993. The animals at their center cannot be released into the wild either because they have been injured or illegally raised as domestic pets. The alligator that withstood mass amounts of petting, for example, was found during a drug raid in Los Angeles 26 years ago.

“It’s a very special animal that’s going to sit in front of an audience,” said Gabe Kerschner, who handled the animals and spoke about them during the fair. “It’s the most unnatural thing in the world for a wild animal to stand on a table in front of 300 kids in a school. We put a lot of trust in our animals and they put a lot of trust into us.”

The fair was designed to give local school classrooms, government agencies, environmental organizations and community groups a public forum to present information on ecology, wildlife and a host of environmental issues, as well as to provide a full day’s worth of exhibits, activities, presentations and entertainment. Many celebrated the fair by dressing up as endangered animals, or just wearing costumes related to environment issues. Elaborate costumes ranged from a green Sasquatch-looking moss man to an oversized cigarette and a cartoon crocodile.

Though the theme of the fair was climate change, many different environmental issues were addressed. There were 38 different booths, about 10 of which were hosted by Chico State students from environmental education classes or different school programs or student organizations. Nearly all the booths provided information about different environment issues and ways they could be addressed, as well as games for the children.

A booth hosted by A.S. Sustainability provided an elaborate mini golf course shaped as the Seven Wonders of the World made from the trash and reusable material.

Environmental Action and Resource Center intern Yadira Hernandez, who hosted the booth, said that this was her first time at the Endangered Species Faire.

“It is great to see a bunch of little kids get involved in environmental awareness,” she said. “Our planet is providing our resources and if we don’t take care of it what are we going to use?”

The fair is hosted annually by the Butte Environmental Council, a non-profit organization devoted to environmental education and information referral services and advocacy.

Mark Stemen, a board member for the Butte Environmental Council and Chico State department of geography and planning professor, admired how the fair has become integrated into Chico.

“The fair has had about 4,000 people every year,” he said. “It’s become a part of peoples’ lives and, generationally, kids have grown up going to the endangered species fair and now bring their kids to the fair. Thirty-one years is long enough to stand a couple generations.”

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<strong>Tim Kerber can be reached at</strong>

<em>[email protected]</em>


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        Animal party at Bidwell sheds light on endangerment