Kids get up close and personal with mini beasts and a snake

Kids meeting exotic animals at Rheged
Kids meeting exotic animals at Rheged

There was a sharp intake of breath when Bella the boa constrictor hissed and slithered across the floor.

But it came from the parents, not the youngsters, who sat cross-legged in a room at Rheged, near Penrith, for a workshop that featured some of the more exotic creatures in the animal kingdom.

However, while Bella produced awe and wonder amongst the little group, a Russian tortoise named Shelby and several scuttling cockroaches, didn't go down so well with some of the children.

ZooLab's interative workshop features some of the animal kingdom's most amazing contortionists, acrobats and weightlifters.

It allows children, and parents, to meet and handle a giant African land snail and tree frog, as well as the cockroaches and snakes.

They all live with Tristan Bruce from ZooLab, who tours the country with his animal colleagues holding workshops at places like libraries, museums and schools.

The first workshop took place yesterday with two others planned for August 15 and 25.

They are running in conjunction with the Dinosaur Exhibition at Rheged.

"We look at the fascinating topic of Dinosaurs, and through a hands-on activity discover the clues to evolution," said Tristan.

The animals, all in individual special tanks, also include a bull snake, corn snake, centipede, pygmy hedgehog and giant millipede. There's also a variety of tarantulas and scorpions, but the children don't get to handle these.

"Obviously the ones that the children handle are safe. I handle all these, including the boa constrictor, a lot. The children love it, but I get the biggest reaction from the parents. I get an intake of breath and they move slowly back, particularly when I get the boa constrictor out," added Tristan.

As Tristan explained what each animal was and its connection to the evolutionary past, parents anxiously watched on.

Helen Bound from Frizington, had brought her three children, Hayden, 13, Evie, 11 and Livvy, seven. They had all been to see the Dinosaur Exhibition first.

"This is a family day out for us. The children loved the Dinosaur Exhibition. They are looking forward to this, and don't seem to be worried about handling any of the animals. I will not be handling anything," said Helen.

Helen was there with cousins, Louise Benn from Lamplugh and her daughter, Iris, four, and Samantha Sisson, from Cleator Moor, with her two children, Isaac, six, and Artie, three.

As the three mums cringed Iris happily cradled a cockroach. "Oh no it's got loose," said one of the mum's, as Tristan pointed out that they were super-friendly and loved a tickle, and where they were from in Madagascar there were thousands and thousands of them!

Parental supervision is required at these workshops.

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