PA school hosts show with jungle cats, other exotics

By LISA SOKOLOWSKI
lsokolowski@timesleader.com

Jungle cats, alligators and monkeys are just a few of the guests that will be at Dallas Middle School at 7 tomorrow night as part of Understanding Wildlife’s “Live On Stage, The Rainforest” program.

It’s one of four shows trainer Mike Kohlrieser will put on in the Dallas School District. Three day programs will be for students; the evening show is open to the public with a charge of $6 per adult and $3 for children older than age 2.

“During the day, we lean a little bit more toward education,” Kohlrieser said. “In the evening, there’s a lot more entertainment, lights, sound and scenery. It’s more than we can do during the day.”

Expect exotic birds flying overhead and talking into microphones; look for a 3-year-old chimpanzee who “is a clown and then some. He’s like a small child who likes the attention,” Kohlrieser said.

These aren’t your typical household pets, but they do have names, just as your average cat or dog does.

Even the snakes, who Kohlrieser said “don’t have ears, so they don’t know their names,” are named anyway. The chimpanzee even has a middle name.

Kohlrieser has 22 animals total, which ups his family size to 26 when he is home in Ohio with his wife and their two children.

But don’t worry about how the animals travel. They have a life of luxury as far as tour vans go.

Kohlrieser has a custom-built transporter that is 72 degrees (85 degrees in the reptile enclosures) and gives each animal its own CD player. If music isn’t enough to pass the time, Kohlrieser keeps the animals entertained.

“If we get stopped, the animals get out and they play,” he said.

“They’re very inquisitive. They need a lot of stimulation.”

Bringing the animals to Dallas was the idea of Maureen Oremus, the district’s assemblies coordinator.

“Nanticoke ran something like this several years ago, and I was like, ‘Wow,’ and believe me, it takes a lot to wow me,” she said. “I went through heck and high water to get it approved.”

It’s a great opportunity for parents who can’t take their children to the San Diego or Philadelphia zoos, Oremus said.

This might be the first chance a child has to see a python – though Oremus may be squirming in her seat.

“I’m not going to be thrilled with the snakes,” she said. “But it’s like, ‘Look at this monkey.’ I guess it’s just all that kind of an aspect. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Kohlrieser’s goal is to raise awareness, particularly about animals on the brink of extinction.

“We get across a few serious points about conservation,” Kohlrieser said. “Basically, they see these animals that are beautiful and do have a personality. This is what we’re going to lose; this is what will be no longer if we think short term.”

What: Understanding Wildlife’s “Live On Stage, The Rainforest”

When: 7 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Dallas Middle School

Cost: $6 for adults; $3 for children older than 2

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