The Tivoli Turnhalle was host to quite the crowd of interesting creatures Aug 22, when Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus, Ohio Zoo and Aquarium, came to Auraria.
The 65-year-old zookeeper began the show by urging students to follow in his footsteps, not necessarily as zookeepers or as animal advocates, but to pursue their dreams.
“I live the dream of a lifetime,” Hanna said.
Hanna showed a video of mountain gorillas in Rwanda. His crew traveled 8,000 miles to observe the gorillas, an hour a day for a couple of weeks.
After the video, his assistants brought out the animals, starting with a snow leopard.
“When it gets 50 to 60 below zero up there, this cat gets corner of a cave and will put that tail around their body like a coat,” Hanna said about the snow leopard.
The snow leopard was followed by a black-footed penguin. The black-footed penguin needs warm weather to survive and lives in southern Africa. If the temperature drops below 35 degrees, these penguins will die. When the curious seven-month-old penguin was presented to the crowd, its handler had to hold it back so it wouldn’t run around to explore the hall.
Next up was a Carico cat. This unique species is one of few cats that can catch birds in free flight.
A small alligator then took the stage. These reptiles, while now common in the Florida Everglades, were on the brink of extinction at one time. Now there are millions in that area.
After the gator, a pair of 6-week-old Siberian lynx was brought to the table. Just last year the Siberian lynx was declared extinct in the wild inside most of its usual habitat.
“Honey badger don’t care,” Hanna said, as the next animal entered the stage.
Hanna described how the honey badger can survive a bite from a king cobra. One drop of a cobra’s venom will take down an elephant, but honey badgers just go to sleep for a few minutes after being bitten.
Hanna then displayed a rare clouded leopard. The cat’s coat looked like a sky with clouds, except it was darker and wasn’t blue.
A handler came out with a two-toed sloth dangling between her arms. These animals roll up into balls in the trees and move so slowly that algae grows in their fur, causing them to take on a green hue when living in the wild.
Next, Hanna showed a clip of Rolling Dog Ranch, which caters to disabled animals. The shelter plays host to blind cats, horses and dogs with birth defects or diseases that make normal life difficult.
The last batch of animals began with a white tiger. The tiger rolled around on the table playfully, nuzzling its handler and gently swatting her hands with its paws.
A handler entered with a python, one of the largest constricting snakes in the world.
On the topic of snakes, Hanna talked about the Anaconda, which lives in the Amazon rainforest. Snakes like these have jaw muscles that freeze when they bite down, making it impossible for the snakes to let go of their prey for as long as half an hour. Hanna recounted a time when an Anaconda bit his right hand. He had to wait for the animal’s jaw muscles to loosen before he was able to see if his fingers could be saved.
The grand finale of the show was a fully-grown Cheetah, the fastest land animal in the world, which has been clocked at 70 miles an hour. While the cheetah was on stage, the audience had to remain perfectly still. If anyone moved, they might trigger the cheetah’s attention.
Seeing these majestic creatures outside their natural habitat is fairly rare, especially for some of the species that are endangered.
“It’s cool we could have a figure like him come to our school and to see all the unique animals we normally couldn’t see,” Kelsey Schippers, a biology major at UCD said.
Hanna repeated how important it is for the students in attendance to live their dreams like he has lived his dream for the past 49 years. Student activities was the MSU Denver event sponsor.