Wild animals fill school auditorium

Bella, an 11-week-old European brown bear, plays shy after drinking some milk from her bottle during Chester Elementary School’s March 20 Parent Teacher Association assembly. Photo by Samantha P. Hawthorne
Samantha P. Hawthorne

  For the first time in nearly three years, the Parent Teacher Association for Chester Elementary School hosted a special assembly for the students. The March 20 live animal assembly gave students the chance to get up close and personal with eight different species of wild animals.

  Three representatives from the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation traveled all the way from Oroville with their animal companions.

  In addition to having an up-close look at the animals, the students were given a brief lesson on each species, as well as the animals’ personal history with the foundation. Following the lesson, students were allowed to fill their curiosity by asking questions about the special guests.

  Before being introduced to the animals, each individual child made a promise to “always protect the earth and all the creatures on it,” and to “have respect for all life including (their) fellow humans so there will always be a balance in nature.”


Sweetheart, the sulphur-crested cockatoo, struts her stuff as she flails out her wings like a bald eagle during an assembly March 20 by animal handlers from the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation. Photo by Samantha P. Hawthorne

Animals were presented from smallest to largest, beginning with two Australian bearded dragons; two blue-tongue skinks — also native to Australia; and a royal ball python.

  Moving up in size, the visitors introduced a Russian tortoise, which nervously urinated all over the floor causing the children to simultaneously back away from the wet spot; a ferret — which the students learned is illegal to own in California; and a possum — which the students recognized right away and were even able to answer questions about.

  The two largest animals were saved for last: a beautiful sulphur-crested cockatoo — an obvious crowd favorite as the children were all upset when she went back into the cage; and an 11-week-old European brown bear that was born with crooked legs and thrown from her nest when her mom realized she had birth defects.

  Most of the animals presented came to the wildlife foundation with different special needs. When able to do so, the foundation works to treat the animals’ health concerns and release them back into the wild.

  According to the foundation website, 75 percent of its animals would not be alive today if it were not for the care received by the staff and the generous donations made by the animal sponsors.

About the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation

  Established in 1994, the nonprofit foundation is “the only organization of its kind in California from the San Francisco Bay area to the Oregon state line,” according to

  The foundation takes in animals from all over the world and works to promote public awareness “about the care and preservation of all wildlife and their habitats, both locally and globally.”

  Its university-approved program allows students to earn units toward college while being educated about endangered and exotic live animals.

  Anyone interested in learning the importance of animal wildlife and their habitats is able to choose from either an on-site tour or an outreach educational program that is led by the foundation’s trained animal handlers and wildlife experts. For more information call 533-1000 or visit

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