Dewayne French, assistant manager of the Mammoth Spring Fish Hatchery, a division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, brought several unusual items from the hatchery to share with the students.
He started his program with endangered species by showing them a very large snake skin from Africa. He also showed them a purse that was made from crocodile skin. "This purse was actually used in a court case and people were trying to get it back into the United States from another country. It did not clear customs," French said.
Another item he shared with the students was what he called nothing more than a "big kitty," a Lynx skin that had come from Canada.
Several types of small fish mostly native to this area were shown. "Fish have gills and people don't, he said. He showed the students how he placed a battery operated aerator in the aquarium to give the fish oxygen to breathe.
French then talked to the children about reptiles. He showed them a large alligator snapping turtle. "See the points on his back? Common snapping turtles do not have this many points. These turtles stay mostly on the bottom of the area of water they are in. They stick just the tip of their nose out of the water for air. They can stay under water for as long as 15 to 20 minutes," French said.
"There are a few of these types of turtles in this area. Sometimes we place a radio tracking device on them and that's a way we keep up with them. They have a fairly large mouth and a small tongue. They use this tongue to catch their food. They were in the top 10 of endangered species last year," French said.
Crawdads were next on the list. He said there are as many as 40 to 50 different types of crawdads in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.
The star of the show was the American Alligator. "These are mostly found in the southeast United States. This one came from a museum in Mississippi. It is two or three-years old. When it is grown, it could weigh up to 2,000 pounds and be 20 feet long. It has two sets of eye lids," French said. He explained the alligator should always be picked up behind the back of the head so it cannot swing around and bite the person that is trying to pick it up. "They do not like loud noises and they do not like to be held," he said.
French allowed two of the students to hold the African snake display skin he had brought. The students that wanted to, also had the opportunity to touch a crawdad and the American Alligator.
Before leaving, he gave all the students an ABC coloring book that listed animals from A to Z with pictures of them to color. They all were given some stickers to take home.