So, just a warning to any readers, I messed up a bit in my last post. I will, of course, be writing about Jeff Corwin’s amazing book 100 Heartbeats but, I was wrong about what the book is about. I have read the book, but it has been a couple of years. I will be rereading it for the blog posts, but I just wanted to clear up what Jeff Corwin is outlining in his book. 100 Hearbeats actually refers to “critically endangered species and subspecies that have 100 or fewer individuals alive in the wild today.” I am sure this list has increased since this book came out and some individuals on that list are now extinct from the wild and are therefore not a part of the 100 heartbeat club. Edward O. Wilson, a Pulitzer prize winner, wrote an article “Vanishing Before Our Eyes” that mentions the 100 Heartbeat Club, something I would like to read and will most likely write a separate blog post about. But Corwin is not writing about the individuals that are a part of that club, he is writing about species that are on the verge of becoming a part of the club and since the debut of this book, are most likely a part of the club today. It will be hard to outline this book in blog posts, so bare with me, though I know it will be a fun adventure to research and learn more about the different conservation efforts and the different species in the book. Hopefully, I will bring light to some very dire situations in this world that need our attention and help.

I am sure you are wondering why I titled this post Crikey! After writing about Jeff Corwin’s childhood and him telling us about the moment he loved animals and the moment he became a conservationists, I thought it would be fun for me to do the same. I think it is almost impossible to choose an exact moment, as there are so many things that have happened in my life that have caused me to have such a passion for wildlife today. I also, did not quite grow up like Corwin and never had much of a chance as a kid to look for snakes and wildlife and track them. I did live in Comoros Islands, Africa for the first four years of my life. Although I cannot remember most of that time, I am positive the Tropical environment and culture we lived in influenced my love for the natural world. In the following sections I will highlight what caused me to develop a passion for wildlife and what moment caused me to want to be a conservationist.

As most of my family and friends know, I am a great admirer of Steve Irwin, the man more commonly known as The Crocodile Hunter. I grew up watching him on t.v. and enjoyed every word he said and action he did. I had always been scared of crocodiles and I certainly did not find them as “beauties” like Steve did, but that all changed when watching his show. Steve was the type of person that would cradle a cry many tears over a crocodile that died at his zoo. He wanted people to see all creatures as important, beautiful, special, especially the reptiles and especially crocodiles. That did it for me. Watching Steve Irwin on t.v. sent me into a passion for wildlife. I loved them all, well…. almost all. I definitely respected crocodiles and I could even call them beautiful. I still had a lot to learn and a lot more to grow personally, but it was Steve who caused me to understand my love for wildlife and that is why he is still my hero.

Now, I am sure there were many moments where I thought, “Conservation is awesome!” and “I have to be a conservationist”, but I decided to choose this moment in particular because it has always stayed with me. I started volunteering at the Phoenix Zoo in 2008, I think that is when it was, six years later, I am still volunteering. But, this story has to do with my beginnings at the zoo. I joined a program called Zoo Teens. It is a great opportunity for all teenagers, where you can help educate guests, work on the farm, work with horses, be an assistant keeper, etc. I chose to become a Trail Teen who were the teens that went out every weekend with tables, activities, biofacts, and animals (when I was volunteering we brought out animals though we no longer do that in the trail teen program) and we spoke to guests about the items on our tables. To handle any animal you had to be trained by someone at the zoo. You can imagine how excited and terrified I was! We knew that we were going to be handling snakes, insects, turtles, and some amphibians. I was pretty much like most people, I didn’t have a great love for snakes, in fact, they kind of made me nervous, and I certainly was not eager to hold a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (cutest Roach ever!), but I had to face my fears and I am so happy I did. There were some rocky points during the training, I accidentally dropped a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach on the table because I hadn’t checked to see if there were any of them hanging on the lid, but the zoo staff member was so forgiving and kind and worked with me to improve. Then we handled snakes. I got to go first with the Black Mexican King Snake, seriously one of the most beautiful snakes I have ever seen, shiny, slick, black, so gorgeous. This one’s name was Javier. They showed us how to take Javier out of his box, after describing the many stress signs we needed to look out for. I remembered the directions, I approached the box, I slowly and gently, ran my finger down Javier’s back showing him I was there and making sure he was comfortable with me touching him. And by the way, snakes are not slimy, they are smooth, they feel awesome. As I could see Javier was calm, I used both my hands to pick him up, holding on to him with very little force. I could feel his muscles as he moved over my arms, wrapping around my fingers, it was incredible! I wasn’t scared he would bite me, because he was just hanging out, not showing any type of fear, stress, or anger. I placed Javier on a board with pegs on it, so he could weave in and out, then after he had some fun on the board, I put him back in the box. The next few teens COULD NOT pick up Javier. He had decided to not let anyone else touch him, he hissed at them, and showed a defensive posture towards them. Of course, once the staff saw he was not okay with being touched they decided he needed a break for the day, ensuring the safety of the teens and anyone else. I always thought, and still do foolishly, that Javier loved me, and didn’t want anyone else to hold him. Of course, that probably isn’t true, but it connected me to him in a way that I had never felt about any animal before. This lead to me loving snakes, adoring them, and that is when I became a conservationist. I knew that I was part of a small minority of people who loved (plenty of them at the zoo though!) snakes, most people find them to be evil, and I felt that it was my job from that day on to convert as many people as I could to the Snake lover club, or the Insect lover club, or any other animal. I was ready to change the world!

This is a Mexican Black King Snake.

This is a Mexican Black King Snake.

And my favorite picture of Steve and his daughter Bindi

And my favorite picture of Steve and his daughter Bindi


2 thoughts on “Crikey!

  1. Jessica,
    I have enjoyed reading your blog. I love the stories about your ZooTeen experience and it makes me wonder how we can bring the animal handling experience back to the program. Keep the stories coming ❤

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