September 20, 2020

BY WHITNEY SOUTH
Surrounded by a dozen curious children, Lady lays quietly on the carpeted floor enjoying every minute of the rubs and tickles of tiny fingers. She exudes an air of calm similar to a content house cat causing those around her to forget the awesome power that hides behind her toothy grin.
Lady, a 45-kilogram American alligator, was just one of the many scaly creatures on hand for Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo exhibit held at Bingemans in Kitchener on March 2. The interactive live animal show featured everything from exotic snakes and arachnids to lizards and even a Eurasian Lynx.
Based out of Ottawa, the zoo tours a select number of cities around Ontario and Eastern Canada each spring.
Hundreds of guests braved the event and were treated to dozens of exhibits meant to educate as well as fascinate.
Matt Korhonen, zoo curator, said he was pleased with the day’s turnout.
“I was a little surprised at how busy it was at one point in the day,” he said. “We typically see a very busy event but I can honestly say I looked around and was taken aback by how busy it was.”
More than just a chance to see exotic creatures, Korhonen said he hopes events like these help people to learn and appreciate all types of animals.
“A big part of what we do is try to encourage people to realize things like this are really cool but to get outside and see what’s in their own backyard,” he said. “Southern Ontario has the largest density of endangered animals anywhere in Canada so if we can get people passionate about that by using the exotic animals, at the end of the day I feel as though we’ve achieved our goal.”
With a repertoire spanning everything from birthday parties and grade school shows to fairs and museum exhibits, Korhonen said he hopes the zoo is able to reach all sorts of people, but especially the younger set.
“Kids are the most energetic people in the world and the most passionate about things,” he said. “If you can get that information into them they’ll grow up and that knowledge never goes away.”
Third grade teacher Natalie Helm-Weinstein attended the event with her husband Aaron and son Kyle.
“I wanted to go to the show because I knew that my son would love it,” she said. “He’s at that perfect stage of curiosity and wonder and I knew he would enjoy seeing some cool creatures.”
After reading about the event on Facebook and checking out the zoo’s website detailing their eco-education programs and animal rescue, Helm-Weinstein said she knew her family was in for not only a fun outing, but one she could feel good about attending.
“We really enjoyed being able to walk around and read about each creature in the display. It was very educational and the staff was very friendly,” she said. “We especially liked that we got to see some of the creatures outside their enclosures so we could touch them and even hold some of them.”
Helm-Weinstein said she thinks people attend events like this mainly for their kids but end up coming away with more.
“We knew our son would love the experience but the fact that we could spend some family time doing something a little unusual was very refreshing.”
Leaving the event with some great memories and cute photos, Helm-Weinstein said she would definitely attend again.
“It was fun, informative and very interactive,” she said. “My son couldn’t stop talking about everything he saw and was able to touch. It was a fun experience and it was nice to see him so excited.”
For more information on Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, visit www. raysreptiles.com.