Students get hands-on learning with animals at library

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By Ben Wiebesiek

FORT LUPTON — The Denver Zoo made a visit to the Fort Lupton Public and School Library July 10 to give children an opportunity to learn about nature conservation with live animals.
    Corrine Steever, an education keeper with the Denver Zoo, introduced three animals to the crowd of 30 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders: Webster, the ornate box turtle; Piper, the burrowing owl; and Azul, the blue-and-gold macaw.
    “There are many different ways to help protect animals,” Steever told the kids. “And one way is tracking.”
    Steever talked about the process of locating animals, tranquilizing them and attaching radio collars.
    “We’re not tracking them for fun,” Steever said. “We want to monitor where they travel and what their range is so that we can learn how to protect these animals better.”
    The Denver Zoo outreach program was hosted in Fort Lupton through the sponsorship of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.
    “We need to learn about the animals we want to protect from extinction,” Steever said. “What do they eat? What are their predators? Where do they make a home? These are all questions that we have to study the animals to find an answer.”
    Steever detailed how certain wildlife research techniques, such as using telemetry equipment or searching for physical evidence an animal leaves behind can help researchers learn where animals live and study their status in the wild.
     The Denver Zoo is home to 3,600 animals representing more than 600 species, and the animals with Steever represented both the exotic and the close to home.
    “The Rocky Mountain Arsenal is a great place to see burrowing owls,” Steever said as she introduced Piper. “Many of them live in abandoned prairie dog holes.”
    Steever told the kids that efforts to relocate or exterminate prairie dogs can lead to unintended consequences.
    “The burrowing owls don’t dig their own holes. They rely on the prairie dog holes to create a safe place for the young to grow,” she said. “The little ones create a rattling sound inside the hole like a rattlesnake to scare off potential predators.”
     Since 1996, Denver Zoo has participated in 594 conservation projects in 62 countries on all seven continents. In 2012 alone, Denver Zoo participated in 98 projects in 18 countries and more than $1 million in funds was spent by the zoo in support of animal conservation in the field.
    Contact Ben Wiebesiek at 303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email bwiebesiek@metrowestnewspapers.com.