By: Adam Stewart
It is a safe bet Brian Greene is the only Ohio State graduate who has ever had to explain to a bed and breakfast why his cheetah wet the bed.
Greene, who earned his bachelor’s degree in communication at OSU, works with Jack Hanna as part of the Columbus Zoo’s animal promotions department. The group travels the country educating children and adults about animals and conservation.
They have made stops at “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Good Morning America.” Tuesday they stopped at professor Ana Hill’s Animal Sciences 597 class.
Hill offers the opportunity to her class as a “treat” and she said the group visits once or twice a year, if their busy schedule permits.
Like a magician, Greene and crew brought out one animal after the next, reducing the crowd’s college-student mentality to something resembling more of an astonished child’s.
The animals Greene brought are not on display at the zoo, and many have been rehabilitated or are endangered.
Included were a pure-breed dingo, an albino Burmese python, a Chilean flamingo, an American alligator, an ocelot, a hyacinth macaw, a clouded leopard and an 18-pound Flemish rabbit named Jack that won the Wisconsin State Fair.
Then there was Fenny. This 4.1-pound Fennec fox could take the most testosterone-driven Harley rider to say “aww” – and the class acted accordingly.
Tiffany Wilt, a senior in natural resources and human development, is with the promotional department and helped show and speak about some of the animals.
“It’s a lot of fun doing what we do, but it is part of a bigger purpose,” Wilt said.
The bigger picture involved speaking about the extremely endangered clouded leopard’s coats being sold for $25,000, irresponsible exotic pet ownership and the smuggling of exotic birds into the country.
Greene said they drive 90 percent of the places they visit throughout the country and all the animals stay in the hotel rooms with the crew.
A cheetah once “marked” its territory in a bedroom and Greene has had to explain why the arm of a couch in a Manhattan hotel suite was chewed off, but that is not the most difficult part of his job.
“We raise these animals and are with them 24/7 for a year, sometimes bottle-feeding them, and then you have to give them up, it’s very hard,” Greene said.
The grand finale of the visit was when Greene brought out a full-grown cheetah.
Dan Frilling, a senior in finance and risk management, said he was most surprised when the large cat came out.
“It was amazing to see an animal that you only see on TV or behind a cage, up close,” Frilling said.
Adam Stewart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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