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Rain forest hits Massena Central stage

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MASSENA - Michael D. Kohlrieser shared several animals from the rain forest during presentations Monday in the Massena High School auditorium.

But he also had a message to share with the audience that packed the auditorium for the first of two shows.

“The rain forest needs your help,” Mr. Kohlrieser said.

The founder and current director of “Live on Stage, the Rain Forest,” Mr. Kohlrieser brought a variety of animals that wowed the crowd, including birds like a parrot, macaw and cockatoo, a red-tailed boa constrictor, American alligators (large and small), kinkajous (also known as honey bears), a lemur, an African serval (a medium-size wild cat) and a capuchin monkey.

As each animal was brought onto the stage, Mr. Kohlrieser had stories to tell about it.

As he displayed the cockatoo, he told the audience, “Australia is where you would see a bird like this in the wild.”

Inviting four young members of the audience to the stage, Mr. Kohlrieser introduced them up close and personal to a red-tailed boa constrictor.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is that they’re slimy. They’re not slimy. They’re very dry and very soft,” he said as the four volunteers cradled the snake.

He explained how the snake would wrap its body around its prey and start to squeeze. When it felt the other animal exhale, it would squeeze tighter so that the prey wouldn’t be able to take in another breath.

“He will suffocate the animal to death,” Mr. Kohlrieser said.

Then, using its nostrils, the boa constrictor would determine which way the prey’s hair was going in order to find the head, which it would swallow first.

“They just know this by instinct,” he said.

Bringing out two small American alligators, Mr. Kohlrieser suggested they weren’t the most intelligent creatures on the earth.

“They eat, they sleep, they go the bathroom. They will not learn from past experiences,” he said.

He also noted that at one time they had been nearly extinct. But thanks to the protection of their habitat and the enforcement of strict laws, their numbers were again on the rebound.

“It just goes to show we can make a difference if we choose to do so,” he said.

Throughout his hour-and-a-half-long presentation, Mr. Kohlrieser shared one common message - everyone, no matter how old or young, could do their part to make sure animals like those he shared with them were around for years to come.

Otherwise, like the dinosaurs, many animals we know today will cease to exist in the years to come, he said.

“Once they’re gone, they’re gone. If we’re going to help them now is the time to do it,” he said.

Mr. Kohlrieser, whose father was an animal handler, has been working with animals for four decades.

He and his wife created a non-profit organization called Understanding Wildlife, Inc., in 1992. Their goal, he said is simple - to “educate and inspire individuals to get involved and make this a better world for us all - including the animals - to live in.”

They do that by touring under the name “Live on Stage, the Rain Forest” and educating young and old alike about animals facing possible extinction, he said.

They do approximately 500 to 600 programs a year throughout the United States, he said.

For more information, visit www.understandingwildlife.org.



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