Zoomobile in Eldersburg sets imaginations racing 3 more stops in Carroll scheduled SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

June 22, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Asked to name his favorite animal, 3-year-old Marc Horn immediately grabbed a "Curious George" book from his mother's lap and pointed to a monkey.

Marc said he hoped a real monkey would be part of the "Baltimore Zoo Comes to You" exhibit at Eldersburg Library Monday.

"I saw a truck with a [painted] lion outside, so there might be lions here," he said.

A picture of a lion grinned on the side of the zoomobile, which is visiting Carroll County libraries this week and treating children to a peek at the zoo's more portable pets.

"We saw the truck at McDonald's," said JoAnn Casswell. "The driver said 'hello' and asked if the kids were coming to the library."

Mrs. Casswell's children joined about 250 others who patiently waited for a turn to touch a baby alligator and a boa constrictor.

There were no lions, tigers or bears -- only harmless reptiles, rodents and a chatty parrot.

After gently patting the 6-foot-long snake, Marc decided the reptile was "almost as good as a monkey."

Aimee Long, 5, said the boa felt "like a pocketbook" and decided the animal would make a good pet. Her mom squelched that idea right away.

"I saw his tongue stick out," said Brent Hunsinger, 5.

Lou Doucette, the zoomobile instructor, said the snake smells with its tongue and hears with its belly.

"It's a weird animal," she said, as the boa coiled around her waist. "Boas use their bodies to wrap around lunch. Don't worry, though. He is not squeezing me; he's just holding on."

Although the snake was "taller than anybody in the room," she said, he wouldn't be dining on any of the visitors. "He only eats what he can swallow at one time."

Julie Lambdin, 5, was so enthralled with the snake that she went back for a second look. The boa's suddenly protruding tongue made the child blink.

Ms. Doucette introduced the children to Bernadette, a persnickety gray chinchilla. "Pet her with the back of your hands," she said. "That way you won't get grease, sweat and breakfast on her fur."

The instructor placed a brilliant blue and gold macaw on a perch and coaxed it into talking. "Paco says 'cracker' on cue," she said as she offered the bird a morsel.

Much to the children's delight, Paco pronounced a recognizable "cracker."

"That's not a cracker," shouted a child. "It's a peanut."

Paco seemed oblivious to the error in identification as he quickly removed the peanut from the shell with his feet and plopped it into his mouth.

Bradley Cohn, 5, knew instantly why he couldn't touch the head of a baby American alligator.

"He would bite," said the little boy, as he gingerly placed a hand on the gator's tail.

"He has 76 small teeth now," said Ms. Doucette. "They could put little holes in your finger."

As the children moved down the table of exhibits, Ms. Doucette encouraged them to touch pieces of fur, antlers and a few stuffed animals.

Mothers helped the children fill in the facts about which animal belonged to which parts.

"What is this, mommy?" asked Brianna Frey, 2, as she handled deer antlers about half her size.

Bonnie Zasadzinski showed her son Nick a zebu's antler.

"How do you know that?" asked the 2-year-old boy admiring his mother's insight.

"I read it on the exhibit," she said.

Jennifer Ham, 10, easily identified a tarantula for her cousin. "I have a pet one at home," she said. "Mine is much bigger."

While they were at the library, several children enrolled in the summer reading program and received free passes for visits to the zoo.

"Maybe it is the zoo theme," said Mary Blatchford, children's services supervisor. "Interest in the program doubled our expectations."

Ms. Doucette's daughter and sometime helper, Tory Eskenazi, 7, proved to be the most knowledgeable child in the room. "I am the official artifacts picker-outer," said Tory, as she held an elephant tooth's the size of her own hand.

After an hour of show and tell, mother and daughter packed up the animals and loaded the truck for the next stop. Paco chirped noisily from his carrier.

The zoomobile arrives at Westminster Library at 11 a.m. today and the Taneytown library at 1 p.m. At 11 a.m. tomorrow, it makes its last stop in Carroll County at the North Carroll branch library.

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