Jeff Green | Apr 23, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - April 23, 2009 Local Girl Guides meet “Creatures 101”by Julie Druker
Local girl guides get a close look as Matt Ellerbeck of Creatures 101 displays one of his scorpions.
Last Thursday girl guides of the First Harrowsmith and First Sydenham groups along with the Chippewa Pathfinders were treated to a presentation called Creatures 101 at St. Paul's United church in Harrowsmith.
Based out of Kingston, Creatures 101 is an organization that gives presentations concerned with animal conservation and focuses on those animals, specifically species from the groups of reptiles, arachnids and amphibians, which are less represented by other animal conservation groups and often have little or no protection.
Matt Ellerbeck, whose articles have appeared frequently in this paper, and who in the past has focused his advocacy and presentations on snakes, explained the intent of Creatures 101: “Our focus is on the misunderstood creatures of the world. Our goal is to hopefully win people over who don’t like these animals. We want to show people that these creatures are not as scary as the media and movies and make them out to be. They are actually very beautiful in their own way and are very beneficial to humans and to the ecosystem and they do deserve our respect and to be protected”.
Ellerbeck manages the arachnids, Matt Laveault, the reptiles and Evan Hall, the amphibians. Each brought for their presentation a large box containing a selection of live species from their own group.
The three gentlemen decided to band together to form Creatures 101 since each of their animal groups have so many similarities and parallels. Ellerbeck explained, “We thought we could do so much more and have a bigger voice and a bigger presence as a group.”
Marni Pedersen of the Girl Guides met Matt Ellerbeck of Creatures 101 at her home at Desert Lake Resort near Verona, where he makes regular annual presentations. She invited Creatures 101 to give the guides an up close and personal look at these lesser-known and misunderstood animal groups.
Ellerbeck, who shares his apartment with 23 scorpions, began the presentation with four of them: the Emperor from Africa, the Flat Rock from Mozambique, the Desert Hairy from the Southern United States and the Malaysian Forest.
Matt brought each around for the guides' close inspection while he dispelled common myths and stated the facts.
Of the 1500 scorpion species worldwide all are venomous but only 25 species of these are lethal to humans. Only 5% of stings require any kind of medical attention at all and defensive stings usually contain no venom at all.
Of the 100 species found in the States only one is lethal and there has been only one fatal human stinging there in the last 20 years.
The benefits of scorpions are many: they are valuable in ecosystems; they are natural gauges for measuring environmental degradation and are valuable to medical research. Currently their venom is being studied to treat cancer and to create new antibiotics. Sadly though, millions of scorpions are killed annually worldwide to make various trinkets and souvenirs and one way to advocate for them is not to purchase these products.
Next up was Evan Hall with his amphibians: the fire and tiger salamanders and Barnaby, an ornate horned frog from South America. Hall pointed the extreme vulnerability of these shy creatures, which drink and breathe through their skin and are therefore very vulnerable to toxins and pollutants. That is why so many species are on the decline.
Hall’s advice? The less they are handled the better. And using frogs as fish bait is a definite no-no. Similar to the scorpions, natural chemicals found in the skin of certain species are being used in medical research.
Matt Leveault presented his reptiles last: Among others, there was Godzilla, the green iguana; Aurora, the baby anaconda and Tails, a rat snake from the Everglades.
Many of these animals are on the decline due to humans’ unjustified fear and misunderstanding of them. Snakes and lizards are also shy creatures that unfortunately suffer unwarranted persecution by humans. They are natural pest controllers since they eat rodents.
The three gentlemen of Creatures 101 live with their creatures at their homes and all of the creatures they presented have either come to them as rescues and/or have been bred in captivity. They strongly advocate never taking creatures from the wild.
They also strongly advise anyone considering one of these species as a pet to read up on it before a purchase is made. Unbeknownst to many, these animals require a lot of care and time and a specialized vet.
After the presentation the guides spent time asking questions and revisited the creatures for one last look. Guides Melissa Asselstine of Godfrey and Celine Blais of Harrowsmith both agreed, “It was really awesome.”
You can visit the Creatures 101 website at http:/creatures101.weebly.com