When eyes shine at night and foxes fly

June 06, 2011 03:42 pm | Updated 03:42 pm IST

Hello friend: Getting to know the turtles.

Hello friend: Getting to know the turtles.

Eleven kids spent an exciting weekend at the Crocodile Bank on East Coast Road, recently. They were spending the nights with turtles, crocs and pythons. They arrived early morning one Sunday and their day began with an introductory tour around the bank.

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology is one of the largest reptile zoos in the world and their aim is to promote the conservation of reptiles and amphibians. By the 1990s there were over 8,000 crocodiles in the Croc Bank and today there are 14 species of crocodilians, two of which are listed by the IUCN as critically endangered with a further three listed as threatened.

The Croc Bank helps conserve turtles, lizards and snakes and it came to be known as the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology in 2003.

With many activities and educational programmes especially designed for kids, the overnight camp seems to be a hot favourite among the young.

After the tour, the kids enjoyed a “Show and Tell” session with the education officers. A baby Caymen croc, a baby Indian Rock Python and a baby Black Pond Turtle were displayed and the children were able to observe at close quarters what they would have missed if they saw them from afar. Their characteristics and parts of their body were explained — they got to see the webbed feet of the turtles and examine it closely and learnt the importance of having it. The sinewy muscles of the baby python was exclaimed over — for they now understood how it could coil and twine around things with such strength and move. They noticed the third eye of the baby croc, which closes under water.

This was followed by cleaning out the pens of the baby mugger crocs and the black pond turtles.

And now it was time to take a half an hour walk — to the Flying Fox colony, in the huge Banyan tree. After watching hundreds of them the kids enjoyed themselves swinging and climbing the Banyan tree.

After dinner there was the night safari to see the crocs. They witnessed the “territorial disputes” and watched as the crocs dug and burrowed. It was a breathtaking sight when they saw the many shining eyes — as if the stars were shining in the muddy waters.

Early morning saw the kids doing the snake walk with the Irulas, and though they didn't see any venomous snakes, they did get a glimpse of two rat snakes and a bronze back, all non-venomous.

Getting back to the Croc Bank, after a little rest the kids got down to setting up a fresh water aquarium for the turtles. They checked the water levels and kept little pots and vegetation for the turtles to nibble and hide under. They also put in tiny fish. It was now time for some painting, which actually was to create an artificial butterfly garden. The concept was to paint the flower have a vial of honey inserted in the centre so that butterflies would get attracted to it. Play time in the beach was followed by the finale — where certificates and prizes wee distributed with a special Croc Bank Kit.

It was an unique experience for these kids, an experience which made them understand and appreciate the natural world and also the importance of conserving it with everything they've got.

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