NEW PORT RICHEY
Did you know that there are more than 1,000 species of bats and that they live on every continent except for Antarctica? Or that bats are mammals that groom themselves like a cat, and they actually fly with their webbed hands, not wings?
Did you know that many trees and plants depend on bats for pollination purposes, and that the nocturnal creatures eat more than 3,000 insects every night? Or that even though you should never, ever touch a bat found in the wild, contrary to popular belief, only one-half of 1 percent actually carry rabies — and that the largest carriers of rabies are actually raccoons and skunks?
That's a lot of information to absorb, and it's just the tip of the iceberg of what kids were learning from the various critters (and their handlers) that came to Seven Springs Elementary School last week.
The students were treated to an informative presentation by Jennifer Smith of the Florida Bat Conservancy. Smith brought along a slide show featuring some of the bat species from around the world, and a couple of Florida bats for the kids to see up close see but not touch.
Melinda Mendolusky, manager of the Animal Ambassador program at Lowry Park Zoo, showed up the next day with her mini-menagerie that included an Australian green tree frog, a barn owl, a Florida pine snake and a South American Prehensile porcupine.
"This is wonderful," said Michele Gant, who teaches students in kindergarten and first grade. "It really goes well with what we've been studying: animals and their habitats. This is perfect for what we've been doing."