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Insects, Hellbenders and Opossums: A Zoo Academy Story

Hi, my name is Beth Knox and I’m a Zoo Academy student. I’ve experienced a lot of amazing things here at the Zoo.  My favorite species here are insects and reptiles. I’m very fortunate to work in the Insectarium as a guard/interpreter.  It’s cool to get out insects and show everyone their cool adaptations up close.

Here I'm working with the emperor tamarins in the World of the Insect building.

Here I'm working with the emperor tamarins in the World of the Insect building.

I’ve worked in Reptile house and I’m currently doing a project on getting our aquatic hellbender salamanders on display. This unique species is rarely known and its populations are declining. They are currently located behind the scenes in what we call the Salamander Hilton. We feed them baby crayfish and they live in water tanks. We would like to get them in natural lighting for better breeding conditions.

Hellbender (Photo by: Brian Gratwicke)

Hellbender (Photo by: Brian Gratwicke)

One of our head Amphibian/Reptile Keepers Kristin Bennett would like to breed them, stating that the Missouri Department of Conservation has been putting artificial nest boxes in the Eleven Point River in Randolph County. So far they’ve found a few clusters of eggs. Hellbenders in their natural flowing streams are great indicators of healthy water and it’s now up to us to breed and repopulate them so that others can enjoy them. Watch a video here – Hellbenders.

I’ve started in Education and already I’m enjoying all the animals we socialize and use in educational programs. I was a bit nervous my first time socializing our Brazilian opossum, Victoria. She’s a burst of energy and wants to constantly treadmill on my hands. She’s the most outgoing and is really cool about allowing people to rub her back. We want her to calm down a bit while in the hand. When I softly massage her neck, she sits down and cuddles in my hand.

One of the Educators said, “Wow! Beth you’re the opossum whisperer. I’ve never seen her behave so chill.”

One of the Educators said, “Wow! Beth you’re the opossum whisperer. I’ve never seen her behave so chill.”

Isn't she cute?

Isn't she cute?

1 comment

1 Karen Corbett { 08.23.13 at 7:49 pm }

Hi Beth. Great blog. My son Joshua is also very interested in helping to breed Hellbenders. Do you have any advice for him to get started? He will be 13 soon. Thank you Beth. Good luck with your research.

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