A travelling zoo spent the weekend at the Moncton Coliseum with a goal of changing people's perception of certain critters, while spreading a message of preservation.
More than 100 animals prowled the coliseum, with wide-eyed onlookers getting a hands-on experience over the two-day event.
“Watching a video on YouTube isn't going to teach you what a snake feels like,” said Kevin Dungey of Little Ray's Reptile Zoo. “For people who have fears and phobias, those videos don't do anything to help.”
Director of outreach and education Del Niedzialek says many of the shows focus on changing people's perceptions of animals.
“Having physical experiences is the best way to educate people,” said Niedzialek,
Though anxious at first, many onlookers were eager to get a closer look at the snakes, alligators and tarantulas.
“Those always end up being people's favourite animals,” Niedzialek said. “They get so excited to conquer a fear. They go from being super afraid of them to, if not loving them, having a much more profound respect after meeting them.”
Many of the more exotic animals are rescues that were seized from homes around the country, including the reptile store in Campbellton, N.B., that closed after the python attack of 2013.
But only creatures comfortable around crowds of people are brought out for display and educational programs.
“The vast majority of animals we take in, we are either the sanctuary that cares for them for life, or we find the home that cares for them for life,” said Niedzialek.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.