Animals from around the world amaze kids at the Decas School

Feb 25, 2020

The students at John W. Decas Elementary School got to learn from some unusual teachers on Tuesday and Wednesday, as the Amazing Animal Ambassadors visited the school with a small menagerie in tow.

Caitlin Cornet and Bethany Jakubson, along with a skunk, boa constrictor, red-tailed hawk, and other creatures wowed the young students with “tails” of the animal kingdom.

The first animal on display was Mocha, a boa constrictor  who wound her way up and down Cornet’s arm to gasps from the children. Cornet explained that Mocha didn’t pose any real danger to the preschoolers, who were far too big for her to eat. 

“She’s a big baby!” exclaimed one student.

Jakubson introduced another often-disliked animal: Flower the skunk. She showed the students Flower’s shovel-like paws, which Flower uses to dig for food like worms and vegetables in someone’s garden. 

Jakubson also explained that skunks only spray to protect themselves, and they first give a warning by shaking their tails and stomping their feet.

Flower doesn’t have the ability to spray, but  Jakubson said she thought that she wouldn’t spray the kids even if she could, because of her friendly personality.

One student asked if Flower brushed her teeth. (She doesn’t, but sometimes her caretakers give her treats similar to those used to clean dogs’ teeth.)

The smallest creature introduced by the ambassadors was Cyprus, a tenrec. Tenrecs look like a tiny hedgehog, but are native to Madagascar and aren’t related to hedgehogs or porcupines at all. Somehow, tenrecs are related to elephants.

Tenrecs use their nose and ears to navigate the world. To protect themselves, they roll up into a ball and flex their spines. Sometimes, they will scoot towards another animal to try and poke it.

Jasper the red-tailed hawk is from Cape Cod. He was struck by a car, which left him blind in one eye and unable to hunt. Red-tailed hawks can see about a mile away, and use their super-sight to hunt small animals and birds.

Shelly, a tortoise, was greeted with oohs and aahs from the crowd when Cornet lifted her from her carrier. Shelly is about 25 years old, but tortoises can live for far longer than humans. The oldest tortoise in the world, named Jonathan, is 188 years old. 

The students were intrigued by Shelly’s shell. When asked what they thought it was made of, two students guessed wood or stone. In fact, tortoises’ shells are made of bone, and are a part of their skeleton. 

A full-size tortoise has a shell so strong that an elephant could step on it and be safe.

The program was paid for by the school’s boosters.