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updated: 11/2/2013 6:22 PM

Zihna the hawk, Bubba the crocodile raise money for wildlife center

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  • Shrey Dshpande, 7, Anagha Chandrashek, 6, and Lynn Handler, all of Elburn, point and gasp at a red-tailed hawk named Zihna at the second annual "Wild About Wildlife" fundraiser on Saturday for the Fox Valley Wildlife Center at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles.

       Shrey Dshpande, 7, Anagha Chandrashek, 6, and Lynn Handler, all of Elburn, point and gasp at a red-tailed hawk named Zihna at the second annual "Wild About Wildlife" fundraiser on Saturday for the Fox Valley Wildlife Center at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Dante Chimenti, 7, of Sugar Grove learns about bats from Red Oak Nature Center naturalist Renee Oakley at the second annual "Wild About Wildlife" fundraiser for the Fox Valley Wildlife Center on Saturday at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles. The fundraiser is to help raise money for the center's operations and to buy land for a new center.

       Dante Chimenti, 7, of Sugar Grove learns about bats from Red Oak Nature Center naturalist Renee Oakley at the second annual "Wild About Wildlife" fundraiser for the Fox Valley Wildlife Center on Saturday at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles. The fundraiser is to help raise money for the center's operations and to buy land for a new center.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

A fundraiser for the Fox Valley Wildlife Center featured lots of animals -- and plenty of reptiles -- Saturday in St. Charles.

Snakes, hawks, owls, a tortoise, a bearded dragon and much more delighted children and adults alike at "Wild About Wildlife," held at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center.

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The animals were brought by the wildlife center and other suburban nature centers and zoos, including Phillips Park Zoo of Aurora, The Northern Illinois Raptor Center of Hoffman Estates, and Red Oak Nature Center of Batavia.

Among the stars of the show was Bubba the alligator, part of Jim Nesci's Cold Blooded Creatures reptile show.

"The program shows another side of animals that we never get to see," said Nesci, of Mokena.

"I am a behaviorist. My expertise is crocodilian behavior. Bubba responds to 'up' and 'lay down.' He responds to instruction. People react positively and with disbelief, because they can't believe an animal that supposedly is a primitive beast (does this)."

The mission of the second annual fundraiser was to raise money for the wildlife center's operations and buy land for a new center, said wildlife specialist Laura Kirk.

The center, which opened in 2001, is housed in an old rangers' house on the Elburn Forest Preserve, part of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.

"We wouldn't be limited to what the forest preserve says we can and can't do," Kirk said. "We could custom-build a facility. Right now, our building is not really designed for animal care."

Shrey Dshpande, 7, and Anagha Chandrashek, 6, both of Elburn were in awe of the owls and raptors, pointing at the live birds, their mouths agape.

"I love the great horned owl," Anagha said. Shrey did, too, for the fact it can hunt skunks due to its poor sense of smell.

Last year, the wildlife center treated more than 2,800 animals, always with the goal of releasing them back into the wild, Kirk said. It has two full-time staff members, three to four seasonal workers, and about 30 regular volunteers.

Savanna Chimenti, 13, of Sugar Grove has been a volunteer for a year. She brought in two baby cedar waxwing birds that had been in her care for a couple of weeks after they had fallen out a tree during a storm. She decided she wanted to be a part of the center's effort, so she became a weekly volunteer.

She's a lover of all animals but especially loves the bird room. Her favorite is a flicker named Wooka, an education ambassador for the center. While working in another room, she'll hear him "just singin' away until someone pays attention to him. It's so hilarious."

The center is not open to the public, but the goal is to build an educational center on the new land, Kirk said.

The event also featured activities and crafts for kids, a bake sale, wildlife center merchandise for sale, and a silent auction with gift cards, gift baskets and jewelry. About 150 people or more are expected to visit the event.

• Daily Herald staff photographer Laura Stoecker contributed to this report.

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