Dr. David Penning calls the project “The Reynolds Rewilding.”
“Historically, we’ve had live animals on display in the building, but not in recent years,” he said.
Penning has been working with his students to create a series of animal displays on the second floor of Reynolds. Those stopping to take a look may find some exotic species they didn’t know existed.
“There are 13 different cages, ranging from an American mata mata turtle, which has a weird, ornate design; African bullfrogs; stinkpot turtles from Kellogg Lake in Carthage; a chameleon; and a frilled dragon
“There’s also an amphiuma – a three-foot-long salamander – named Hot Dog, which we collected during a student trip to Louisiana over the summer. He’s about as big around as a kielbasa but smaller than a summer sausage.”
Other unusual species on display include an axolotl (which Penning says is perhaps most famous for providing cute pictures on Instagram), which can regenerate limbs if needed; and a pipa pipa, a frog that gives birth ejecting its young through openings on its back.
Penning’s students have helped create the displays and will assist with their feeding and care.
“From the public education side, people will be able to walk through Reynolds and learn about animals they might not be aware existed,” he said, adding that each animal will have a “Tinder-like profile” highlighting their characteristics.
“The other side of it is students will get a zoological experience while here. They can learn about the animals’ diets, test water quality, and monitor their health. If you look at what it takes to get into veterinary school or get jobs at zoos or aquariums, they want applicants to have hands-on experience. Students very rarely have the chance to get training while working with exotic animals.”