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Canisius overrun by wild animals: The bi-annual ‘Mini Zoo’ returns to campus this semester

blog by The Canisius Griffin  • 

The students have spent their entire semester preparing.

They spent the first third of their semester in the classroom studying the principles of maintaining a zoo and the exhibiting and caring of animals. They spent the second third touring zoos all around the Northeast. And they spent the final third building it:

The Mini Zoo at Canisius College.

“It is a unique program that does not exist in any other university, anywhere,” said Michael Noonan, Ph.D., director of ABEC.

The Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation department borrows animals from the Buffalo Zoo for the Mini Zoo. The animals are cared for by the Canisius College students, as well as Buffalo Zoo staff.

The course has been running since 1999 and runs every other year. Formerly taught by Dr. Noonan, Susan Margulis, Ph.D. has since taken over. She is so committed to the project that her temporary “office” has been set up between exhibits so that students can contact her for advisement.

This year, the zoo is following an African theme. Animals on display include the Black and White Ruffed Lemur, the African Crested Porcupine, Ring-Necked Doves, the Egyptian Spinytailed Lizard, Rock Hyrax and a Cerval.

Visitors enter through the African-themed research tent. It was decorated by Margulis, who teaches a summer capstone course in South Africa.

Following the tent, visitors see the various exhibits based on various places in Africa. The entrance represents the desert. Next is the “Kopje,” the rocky region of Africa, represented by the Rock Hyrax.

Fun fact: The Hyrax looks like a rodent, but in fact its closest living relative is an elephant.

After the Hyrax come the African Crusted Porcupine and the Serval, followed by the Ruffed Lemur, whose exhibit is set in Madagascar, as painted by students.

The exhibits were all hand-built and painted by the students. The walls in the animals’ immediate exhibits are painted to look like their natural habitat, while walls across from them are adorned with conservation tips, and what we as a society can do to help end poaching.

It is a feel good zoo. “As all zoos should be,” said Margulis.

Margulis has been working on the Mini-Zoo from 7:30 a.m. every morning to 8:00 p.m. at night. She is not alone.

“Sleep is overrated,” said senior Erin McCabe.

During construction, everybody wanted to showcase different capabilities. Whether an artist or an engineer, students got to help out in the best way that he or she could. The girl who painted the Lemur exhibit was asked to paint a mural at the Buffalo Zoo.

The Mini Zoo is open to the general public and the students and Margulis alike are excited for the opening. School groups from around Western New York are scheduled to visit almost everyday, according to Margulis.

“It’s an amazing learning opportunity for everybody,” she said. “For Canisius students and elementary school kids alike.”

The zoo is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Nov. 7 to 18. It is absolutely free to visitors, although donations for the Buffalo Zoo are accepted.

“I hope everyone can come see it,” said Margulis. “It only happens every two years. It is a great opportunity to showcase what the students can do.”

By Amanda Gabryszak
The Griffin

TAGGED: amanda gabryszak, buffalo zoo, canisius griffins, hyrax, mini zoo, serval

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