SCOTTSBLUFF — Children ages 6 to 8 spent Friday morning learning about different species of cats at the Riverside Discovery Center’s Animal Discovery Camp.
The zoo is hosting a series of discovery camps over the summer where children in two age groups — 6 to 8 and 9 to 12 — learn about animals and conservation. They also create crafts, play games, encounter animals and listen to keeper talks.
The theme for Friday was cats, and campers walked around the zoo learning about the different species of cats who reside there. As an enrichment treat, all the cats were given catnip in a bag. Nikka, the Amur tiger, pounced on and tore apart the bag. Apollo, the lion, was more interested in stretching out by the side of his pool. Sabina, the Eurasian Lynx, only wanted to lay in the shade away from the morning sun. Madoc, the black leopard, pounced on the bag of catnip twice before scratching her nails on a log and stretching out on the green grass.
While visiting Apollo, he began roaring, a method lions use for telling other animals to stay away, said Brit Reed, education intern. Several campers commented about how loud Apollo’s roar was. Camper Jonah Zavala insisted a bird that flew away from Apollo was scared off by his roars.
Campers were lucky to get a glimpse of Sabina as she normally likes to spend hot days in the shady bushes in her enclosure.
Several of the students wanted to know if Reed had ever pet the big cats.
“We don’t pet any of the animals because it’s too dangerous,” he said.
Several campers knew Madoc was a nocturnal animal. Reed said they are masters at stealth.
“You could be walking along and she could be right above you or beside you,” he said.
After visiting the cats at the zoo, campers went into the classroom where they learned about the different textures of fur from a lion to a leopard and how they feel. They also felt sandpaper to get a sense of what a lion’s tongue is like.
“Their tongue is rough like sandpaper,” Reed said. “They use it to get the rest of the meat off a bone.”
Tiger stripes were of interest to everyone. Tigers have their own individual stripe pattern, much like human fingerprints. The group gathered in the gazebo at the zoo and painted their own tiger stripes on their thumbs.
Overall, campers were split on whether they liked the lions or tigers the best. Reed gave a push for the tigers because they are stronger and they like to play in water. But camper Addison Weinreis didn’t agree. Her favorite was the Eurasian Lynx.
“I really like their fur,” she said. “They are really good at hiding and they’re really unique.”
The next camp is for ages 9-12 on July 7 and children will learn about primates. On July 21, ages 6-8 will learn about birds of prey and on Aug. 4, children 9-12 will learn about the unique animals who reside at the zoo. The camp runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Cost is $35 for members and $40 for nonmembers.
This summer, through a generous donation from Ernie and Vicky Garces, several scholarships are available to the camp for children who qualify for free and reduced lunches. An application can be picked up at the zoo. Interested children must include a one-page essay on why they think they are deserving of the scholarship and a statement from their parent or guardian about why they are in economic need of the scholarship. For more information, call 308-630-6236.