Smells Like Indigo Spirit

November 30, 2011 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

The Eastern Indigo Snake is the largest nonvenomous snake native to the United States. It is an endangered, majestic creature that uses brute force rather than constriction or venom to subdue its prey. What happens after the prey is digested, however, is not something most people get to experience. Indigo snake excrement, with its unmistakable aroma and sheer size, is one of many unique and fascinating experiences I have had an Animal Programs Volunteer at Fernbank Museum.

Animal populations, worldwide, are declining due to habitat destruction, pollution, over-harvesting and fear killings. The animal programs at Fernbank help work against these problems by educating people about the grandeur and importance of our planet’s other residents, and it has been rewarding playing a part in that effort. By providing Museum guests the opportunity to have real-life encounters with local and exotic animals, Fernbank Museum connects individual people with animals and creates awe and respect for wildlife. As a programs volunteer, part of my job has been encouraging that connection by hosting animal encounters. Hosting an animal encounter is a fun and dynamic experience because it requires one to fill the roles of educator, animal handler, and performer. It’s an exhilarating experience standing on-stage with a bearded dragon in front of a room full of museum guests, ranging from two to ninety-eight, who are looking for some concept of what to think about the peculiar, prickly lizard in your hands. We take tests throughout our lives, but there is nothing like being quizzed by a room of five-year-olds to make you appreciate every one of those hours spent studying the material.

Of course, it’s not all spotlights and curtain calls for an Animal Programs Volunteer, as much of my time has been spent working behind the scenes performing daily animal care tasks. Animal caretaking can be a rather humbling experience, as you’re sanitizing an enclosure for a couple dozen hissing cockroaches or sifting mealworms out of their own wastes. However, these tasks often turn out more exciting than hosting the animal encounters. One of the most important skills I have learned is how to feed the various animals. Whether it’s mice for the snakes or crickets for the geckos, there is something inherently cool about feeding animals. Doing enclosure maintenance, such as cleaning and replacing bedding or changing the water in the alligator tank is another rewarding activity because I know my quality of work will have a direct impact on the health and well-being of another living thing. Also, the animals usually need to be out of the enclosure during maintenance, and moving alligators never gets boring! My tenure as an Animal Programs Volunteer has been educational as well as exciting, and I look forward to the smell of Indigo snake as I continue with the volunteer team.

—Sean D’aigle, Animal Programs Volunteer

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About

At Fernbank Museum, there’s much more than dinosaurs and giant-screen films. Even with our website, e-newsletters, Facebook pages and Twitter updates, there’s still a lot we’d like to share with you. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!

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