We’ve all seen the footage of oil-slicked shore birds getting washed down with dishwashing liquid and heard the plight of animal species endangered by shrinking habitat.
A traveling exhibit opening Saturday at Exploration Place — its 40th — broadens awareness of wildlife rescue and of the creatures who must navigate the 21st-century terrain. But the message is not one of doom and gloom, said Amy Henson, a staff scientist at Science North. That’s the Ontario company that has designed the exhibit, which Henson calls vibrant and bright.
“It’s about how people are working to solve problems,” she said. “I think it’s more a message of hope.”
The exhibit covers many facets of the life of animals around the world and at home and at their habitat. It looks at the rehabilitation of injured wildlife, at biodiversity and at the preservation and protection of dwindling species.
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Part of the learning is in fun: Kids will be able to strap on soft turtle shells and crawl through a tunnel — with highway noises following their trail. The lesson is about wildlife trying to get from one place to another: “Highways cause barriers,” said Bryen McGuire of Science North. Turtles and other animals need tunnels or other ways to funnel them through safe crossings, he said.
Kids will be able to sit in a “glider” that blows air in their face while they watch a video of whooping cranes being guided back to their migratory path that had been disturbed. Children also can stick their hands in puppets that give them a feel for how it would be to build something out of wooden blocks with an elephant’s trunk, or how a condor feeds its chicks. Visitors also can test their grip against that of an orangutan’s.
A mini theater will play a video showing how caregivers go about nurturing orphaned animals, such as sleeping beside elephants and playing soccer with them.
Of course, animals also use each other to survive; one activity follows a black-footed ferret’s exploration of a prairie-dog burrow. Black-footed ferrets eat prairie dogs.
“One of our missions is to inspire children to pursue science-based careers,” said Christina Bluml, marketing director for Exploration Place, and the exhibit shows that there are jobs in the field of wildlife rescue.
In addition to the exhibit, there will be accompanying activities and events, such as field trips to wildlife areas including Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Stafford and Milford Nature Center in Junction City during spring break, and speakers coming to Exploration Place to talk about wildlife rescue, Bluml said. Johnson’s Garden Centers will have a display about how to create a wildlife habitat at home.
A photo gallery in the lobby by the Dome Theater at Exploration Place shows where some of the animals featured in the exhibit, as well as in the companion film “Animalopolis” that is playing in the theater, can be seen at local and state zoos.
If You Go
What: Traveling exhibit about restoring animals to their natural habitat
When: Saturday through April 26 during regular museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; closed most Mondays
Where: Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean Blvd.
How much: Included in membership or regular admission, plus tax: $9.50 for ages 12 to 64; $8 for ages 65 and older; $6 for ages 3 to 11; free for ages 2 and under