Nature on the Geaux: LaPlace Library welcomes exotic animals

Published 3:38 pm Saturday, June 24, 2023

LAPLACE — Children visiting the newly reopened LaPlace Library Branch came face-to-face with a scorpion, boa constrictor, bearded dragon and other marvelous creatures during a presentation by environmental educator Tanee Janusz with Nature on the Geaux.

Janusz started volunteering at a young age and quickly gained a passion for working with animals. Over the years, she’s had the pleasure of working with the Audubon Nature Institute, the University of New Orleans Coastal Education and Research Facility, and the Louisiana Nature Center. She currently cares for 60 animals, encompassing 35 species.

“For the most part, they are all rescued exotic pets,” Janusz said. “I do have a few native animals like box turtles.”

While Janusz has previously worked with schools in the area, this week marked Nature on the Geaux’s first visit to St. John the Baptist Parish Libraries.

The program began with curious children – and their parents who were equally enthralled – getting an up close and personal look at an Asian Forest Scorpion under a black light. Next came another creepy crawler, the African Giant Millipede, before the children had a chance to pet a bearded dragon.

When the red-tailed boa came out, the audience had a lot of questions about the longest and heaviest snakes in the world. Children noticed the snake was starting to shed, and they soon learned that snakes shed their skin in one piece, similar to how they would take off a sock.

The kids learned that bearded dragons don’t lose their tails the way some other lizards do. Tracing the back of a tortoise, they learned how shells are more than a home; they are actually part of the tortoise’s spine.

A tiny animal that resembled a hedgehog was revealed to be a Lesser Tenrec native to the island of Madagascar. Janusz explained that the critter may look like a hedgehog, but it is actually more closely related to an elephant.

“I hope they get a better connection not only to the animals we have around us, but animals that can be found all over the world,” she said. “Sometimes people just don’t have access to be able to experience going to the zoo or aquariums.”

Nature on the Geaux is based out of Slidell and will travel to St. Tammany, Orleans, Upper Jefferson, Tangipahoa, St. Bernard, and Harrison, Pearl River, and Hancock counties in Mississippi for no additional fee. For a travel fee, Janusz and her critters will come to Upper Plaquemines, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, Livingston, Washington, Stone, Lamar, Jackson County, Ascension, East Baton Rouge, St. Helene, and Forrest County.

The following free library program appearances are scheduled for this summer:

– 6/27 @10:30 a.m. Poplarville

– 6/27 @2 p.m. Picayune

– 6/28 @11 a.m. East Bank Regional

– 6/28 @3 p.m. Wagner

– 6/29 @3 p.m. Lafitte

– 6/30 @11 a.m. West Bank Regional

-7/12 @11 a.m. River Ridge

– 7/13 @11 a.m. Belle Terre

– 7/13 @3 p.m. Gretna

– 7/19 @11 a.m. Terrytown

– 7/19 @3 p.m. Live Oak

-7/20 @6:30 p.m. West Baton Rouge


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