From classroom visits to after-hours events, Como’s Education Animals always have a lesson plan.
Did You Know?
- Como’s education animal ambassadors are frequent visitors in popular school programs like “Fur, Feathers, Scales and Slime” and “Mini Movers” on Como’s campus.
- Cupid the penguin, Lil Bee the hedgehog, and dozens of other education animal ambassadors also go on the road regularly, meeting young learners face to face in more than 200 school-based visits around the metro area every year.
- Contributions to Como Friends help to underwrite the full costs of providing these high-impact, low-cost classes that reach more than 25,000 students every year.
Turkey the parrot is one of Como’s most popular animal ambassadors, but he’s rarely seen at the zoo. You’re more likely to run into him on the town, where Turkey took part in more than 90 school programs and other public events last year, wowing the crowds with his charming shuffle step and making them laugh with his favorite punchline, “Gobble, Gobble.”
“Turkey is a very social animal,” says Education Specialist Anne Ahiers, who says that the double yellow-headed Amazon parrot learned his exuberant style of talking from a previous owner. “I understand that she worked in fundraising, so she was very enthusiastic on the phone. Turkey picked that up.” Though these endangered birds are popular in the pet trade for their powerful mimicry skills, parrots can live for seventy years or more, often outliving their human companions.
Today, he’s one of hundreds of education animals from more than 50 different species who live behind-the-scenes at Como and come out for education programs that reach more than 25,000 kids and adults every year. Here’s a look:
Chloe —Hoffman’s Two-Toed Sloth
The long-time resident of the Tropical Encounters rainforest habitat, Chloe the sloth has been stepping out—very slowly—to serve as a public ambassador and an honored guest at many of the more than 150 weddings hosted at Como every year. Sloths like Chloe aren’t nearly as sleepy as scientists once believed–these nocturnal animals average about 10 hours a sleep every day.
“Copper” the corn snake’s unusual coloring is the result of leucism, a partial loss of pigmentation. Unlike albino animals, which have no melanin in their skin, feathers, hair and eyes, animals, leucistic animals like Limestone retain their colorful eye pigment.
Turbo—Argentine black and white Tegu
She may be a three-foot-long lizard, but when she’s being rubbed in just the right place, Turbo the Tegu turns into a pussy cat. “She just loves to be petted and scratched and will ask for more,” says Ahiers. Terrestrial natives of Argentina, tegus like Turbo are also terrific swimmers and can cruise underwater for more than 20 minutes.
Roy Casanova—Colorado River Toad
“With a body like a Big Mac, you need a name that’s suave and sexy,” explains Como Education specialist Anne Ahiers. That’s why all of Como’s Colorado River Toads go by the same moniker: Roy Casanova. When in peril, these amphibians secrete a special toxin that can cause predators to hallucinate.
Milli—African Giant Millipede
“Millipedes are decomposers,” says Ahiers. “They break down the stuff that falls to the forest floor, and their poop returns nutrients to the soil. If you like vanilla and chocolate and coffee and mangoes, you can thank millipede poop for helping them grow.”
Hatched on Valentine’s Day 27 years ago, Cupid the African penguin captures hearts in every classroom he visits with his curiosity and sharp-dressed profile. Penguins like Cupid can’t fly, but their heavy bones do help them dive deep into the ocean to catch fish.