Learn to Appreciate “Scary” Animals Through White Hall’s Animal Exhibits – Cardinal & Cream

“People are very afraid of spiders, snakes, lizards and other things.”

Biology professor Micah Fern removed a quarter-sized gray tarantula from a glass enclosure on his shelf.

“But what I always want to show them is,” he continued, “you know, these animals aren’t all mean. They don’t always chase you.

Fern brought the spider to her fingertips.

“The feel of the toes on your skin is really cool too,” he said, handing me the spider. “So if you’re feeling brave enough -“

I could tell by his chuckle that I had visibly hesitated. After a while, I accepted.

“I’ll try,” I said. “For the experience.”

Fern pushed the spider – Blondie, he later said his name was – onto my hand. She weighed like nothing on my fingers, but Fern was right: her little legs exerted a slight pressure on my skin, just enough to notice it. When she was so close, I noticed for the first time how blurry she was.

I think I should preface this by clarifying: I’m not a spider person.

Growing up, my mom taught me to keep my room clean to discourage spiders that hide in my stuffed animals and piles of dirty clothes. To this day, I still bang my shoes on the floor every morning before I put them on. As my mother always said: you never know when a spider is hiding in your shoe.

As Fern explained, this kind of behavior is why he encourages people to hold Blondie, along with the many other animals he cares for at White Hall.

White Hall is famous for its animal exhibits. These are the first things you see when you walk through the front door: snakes, lizards, frogs, scorpions, etc. Since my freshman year, I’ve loved wandering the halls of White Hall with my friends, sister, or boyfriend, gazing through the glass at the creatures within.

“It’s kind of like a little miniature zoo, if that makes sense,” said Junior Zoologist Sarah Greenwood, one of White Hall’s animal keepers. “Like an exhibition, and [the students] can watch and enjoy. That’s how I learned to appreciate animals too.

Fern explained to me that the animals at White Hall are there for three reasons: to interest tour groups, to give science students practical ways to interact with the animals, and for education and awareness outside of The union.

Beyond those duties, he made the same point as Greenwood: he works hard to help others develop an appreciation for animals.

“Snakes are so misunderstood,” Fern said. “People think they’re slimy and dirty and stuff, so touching one, seeing one and having a positive interaction – that makes a big difference. It really changes people’s minds.

Fern held his ball python, Niche, and allowed it to slide down his arm as he spoke.

“Niche is our therapy snake,” he said. “I took her from my buddy, who had her sitting in his office, and her tank was too small and she had nothing to rub against to get rid of. I said to him, ‘You don’t even want this stuff. Let me take him, take him somewhere where the students will just be in love. A student knitted a sweater for her once. It’s incredible.”

Other animals in White Hall are owned by students. When a student wants to bring their pet to school but cannot keep it in their dormitory, White Hall caretakers will accommodate it in their displays and the student will come and look after their pet themselves. company.

Niche isn’t the only White Hall animal to be rescued from a difficult situation. Along with Niche, the keepers are still tending to one of the leopard geckos, Lady, who has regained her health.

As Fern explained, Lady once belonged to a child who couldn’t take care of her properly.

“She came in looking awful,” he said. “[Leopard geckos] shed their skin, and they need something to rub against to get it off, so she had nothing to rub against. So [her shed skin] just covered his eyes, his face; she couldn’t see.

As he did with Niche, Fern rescued Lady and brought her to White Hall for treatment. Today, she receives all the love from the students.

“I love Lady,” Greenwood said. “She’s so cute. I took her to a lab once while working on something after school hours, and I was so distracted by her that I had to put her back.

“All creatures create a web that creates balance,” Fern said. “If you destroy something because it’s disgusting, or scary, or disgusting, then you’re ruining it. It’s something that excites me: people need to interact with animals in order to appreciate them.

This appreciation for animals is exemplified in my experience with Blondie the Tarantula. Holding this helpless little creature that doesn’t even fill the palm of my hand, I felt a surge of admiration for “scary” animals like Blondie.

“It’s not just animals sitting on a shelf,” Greenwood said. “They are creatures that God created and have a purpose.”

Photo by Laila Al-Hagal

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