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What Creatures Can Teach Us

By Allison Wilson

We can learn a lot from wild animals. One of the most important things they can teach us is how we, as humans, influence their survival and well-being. The Creature Conservancy in Ann Arbor was built on that premise, and it has become not only a sanctuary for rescue animals, but also a place that promotes their welfare through hands-on educational programming.

"We gear our programs to both kids and adults, and in all cases we hope that people will gain a greater understanding of the natural world," says Kim Ellis, Bird and Mammal Curator for the Creature Conservancy. "When they learn more about any wild animal, they get a better perspective of the world around them. We hope that people can understand a few very important ideas: wild animals generally do not make good pets, and wild animals have their place in the natural world and we can and should respect that."

Many of the animals housed at the Creature Conservancy are rescues from exotic "pet" situations. They include, among others, Minerva, the Eurasian eagle owl; Jack, the muntjac, also known as a barking deer; arctic foxes Burton and Miehiera; Tulip, the red kangaroo; Al, the alligator; Ignatius, the green iguana, and several macaws, turtles and ball pythons.

Photo credit Kim Ellis

"We also care for some injured, non-releasable native wildlife, such as the vultures," Ellis says. "We do occasionally acquire captive-born animals to help fulfill our educational mission: the reindeer, the crested porcupines, and the warthog are all animals born at zoos or other facilities and are non-releasable. Some of the most popular animals are our sloths, kangaroos and cougars. People are also excited by the huge range of reptiles and amphibians that we house and care for."

Photo credit Kim Ellis

Before accepting any animal, Conservancy staff ensure they will be able to house and care for it, both financially and physically.

"We do a very good job of providing for them, and never take on animals offered to us which we don't feel we can accommodate," Ellis says.

Staff host custom programs onsite to meet the needs of school-aged and adult groups in a classroom that can comfortably accommodate 25-30 people. Guided tours of The Creature Conservancy are also available and can be tailored to suit the interests and size of a group (up to 10 people). Additional programs include children's camps during school breaks, parties, and "Zoo to You."

Photo credit Kim Ellis

"Our Zoo to You program allows us to travel with many of our animals to venues in the surrounding community and more broadly," Ellis says. "Depending on the facilities available, we can bring a huge variety of our animals to off-site presentations. Locally, we have presented at Google, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, the Eddy Discovery Center in the Waterloo Recreation Area, the Ann Arbor District Library, senior homes, churches, and numerous area public, private, and home schools. We have also traveled further afield to support Jack Hanna and our friends at the Columbus Zoo, including appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman and at various large venues within the Great Lakes region."

People interested in seeing the animals can come to the Conservancy for indoor/outdoor visits on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. and for outdoor visits seven days a week. In the winter months, most of the animals are indoors, so outdoor visits are free of charge from Nov 1st through March 31st ($2/person April 1st - October 31st.)

The Creature Conservancy is located at 4940 Ann Arbor-Saline Road in Ann Arbor.

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Allison Wilson is an award-winning writer and communications professional whose...

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