SAUGUS — Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a baby kangaroo hops into a library…
“Nature” Nick Jacinto turned the Saugus Public Library into a safari Friday afternoon, giving more than 70 children and adults an opportunity to interact with exotic animals.
For an hour, it wasn’t a library anymore. Families filed into the children’s section to rainforest sounds reverberating off white walls. Along the way, they met critters like Bubbles the falcon and Pogo the eight-month-old joey.
“I think kids are so busy now that parents don’t have time to get them to the zoo,” Jacinto said. “An important thing for my program is the convenience and getting kids within a few inches of some of the animals that they can’t get to in a zoo.”
He hopes that bringing animals to places that are easier accessible, like libraries, will get children interested in conservation, nature, or a career with animals or science.
Saugus resident Skylar Ross, 8, was among the young children fascinated with the presence of animals she’s never seen before.
Skylar, who owns a bearded dragon at home, said she never expected to see hedgehogs, milk snakes, and squirrel monkeys at the library.
“I’ve held reptiles before but I think it is really special to have something like this at the library,” she said.
Patricia Arsenault, who accompanied her granddaughter, said bringing animals to a place like the library is really educational.
“She loves animals,” she said. “You saw it, she even knew the name of the animals before Jacinto said them.”
Libraries from across the North Shore pooled funds to bring the event to the area, according to Saugus Children’s Department head Amy Melton.
“We hope through this kind of programming it allows children to learn about things by experiencing them at the library and maybe inspire them,” she said.
Jacinto peppered his rapt audience with facts about his animal friends, telling the kids that a snake sleeps with it’s eyes open and that squirrel monkeys love sweets like marshmallows and M&Ms.
Thais dos Santos, 9, put on a protective glove so Bubbles the hawk could perch on her hand. “When I was holding him I could feel his nails. I’ve never held one before, she said. “His wing touched my face. It was so cool.”
She also learned that if hawks could read, they could spot the text of an iPad or computer screen from two miles away.
Jacinto, who travels throughout the East Coast, said he developed a love for animals at a young age by being exposed to wildlife.
“If you see an animal or smell an animal, you get the whole different kind of experience, which is something you have to get by being up close” he said, “You just can’t get that by looking at a book or computer.”