Many of Eastern Nazarene College’s clubs and extracurricular groups are well known around campus, but some do not get as much time in the spotlight as others. One such team that puts in dedicated work for a good cause is the Animal Caretakers Team. The team’s purpose is to provide care to the animals in ENC’s animal lab, located in the basement of Shrader.
The team’s eight members, made up of both freshmen and upperclassmen, are led by club president Nick Burt. Burt joined the club when it consisted of only two members including himself, and has watched it grow to the devoted team it is today.
The care of the animals in the lab is a big job, even for this experienced team, as the different species need a variety of different types of monitoring. Club members must take temperatures daily to guarantee that the various reptile and amphibian enclosures are within safe ranges; feed the frogs and reptiles meals of crickets and vegetables; and feed the snakes their weekly meal of warmed rats. The amphibians also need their tanks moistened with a spray bottle to keep the environment healthy for them.
The club keeps up with cleaning the lab, bathing the snakes to help them shed, weighing the animals to keep track of their health, and other projects on a weekly basis. The members of the team regularly donate approximately and hour and a half of their time each day to keep the lab running.
Many of the seventeen animals in the lab are former pets rescued or adopted from unfortunate situations. “There are a lot of sad stories,” Burt said. Many of the animals are pets given up by owners incapable of taking care of them. Nick related the story of a woman who gave ENC two fire-belly frogs after her son left them when he went to college. She was “terrified of frogs, and thought they were entirely aquatic” keeping them in a container with no land and only a floating log to keep them from drowning. “They never sang when we first got them, but they sing all the time now,” Burt remarked with pride.
The purpose of the Animal Lab is twofold. It provides both a home for animals saved from bad situations and an educational service to the students involved. The team accompanies Professor Jonathan Twining, the clubs founder and faculty advisor, on educational trips to local elementary school groups and other venues, acting as a public relations team for some of the ‘uncute’ animals. The students handle the animals, and answer some one-on-one questions while Twining gives a presentation about the animals he is passionate about. “One of the more fun aspects of the show is seeing the fear the adults have that the kids don’t” said Nick regarding his role in the shows, explaining “they haven’t been trained to fear these animals.”
The animals are also used during the Ecology and Diversity lab to get students experience with handling some of the less popular creatures, like the snakes and tarantulas.