‘Animal Madness’ at the Bell Pettigrew Museum!

This guest blog comes from volunteer Charlie Trzeciak, who offered to write about the Bell Pettigrew open day on 22nd March and got rather more than he bargained for…

I don’t know much about the natural world in all honesty. The closest I have ever got to a wild animal is when watching the occasional David Attenborough documentary whilst cuddled up with my dog on the sofa. With regards to museums, my natural habitat, so to speak, is amongst the dusty remains which humanity has left behind.

As a result, my visit to the Bell Pettigrew Museum, the University’s resident zoology museum, was something of a

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The Bell Pettigrew Museum displays the University’s extensive Zoology collection

departure for me. Its old-fashioned glass cases are a rich treasure trove of fascinating organisms, some preserved in jars, others immortalised by taxidermy. What really made my visit on the 22nd March 2014 come alive, however, was that it coincided with the Museum of the University of St Andrews’ exciting ‘Animal Madness’ event, which was held as part of National Science and Engineering Week.

 

Walking towards the centre of the museum my eye was immediately drawn to a series of tables, around which crowded a gaggle of eager children and parents. On the tables were a series of plastic containers which Tristan, the member of ZooLab who was running the event, told me contained his ‘pets’.

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One of Tristan’s many ‘pets’!

 

Having ushered us to all sit in a large circle he introduced us to the first of them. A Giant African Land Snail: this mighty mollusc can grow up to 30 cm in length, eats its food by licking it with its tongue – which, by the way, is lined with 3000 teeth – and has an incredibly robust shell. The children seemed to take this latter fact as a personal challenge, with many of their eager questions focusing around what force would be sufficient to squash it. In the end, the consensus was that a hammer would do the trick.

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We were first introduced to this Giant African Land Snail

The snail was then quickly followed by a menagerie of amazing animals, which included Madagascan hissing cockroaches, an Australian Cane Toad and a Tegu Lizard, all of which were enthusiastically handled. Tristan, however, really saved the best until last, as he reached into the largest of his boxes to produce a six and a half foot long Boa Constrictor from Brazil. Everyone was enchanted by this decorated reptile – the patterns which line its back actually form a camouflage which allows it to hide amongst dead leaves.

Indeed, I was so caught up in things that I even tried holding the snake!

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Charlie and his new friend

Overall, everyone had a fantastic time interacting with these incredible animals in the atmospheric surroundings of the Bell Pettigrew Museum. If you have not visited already, I would heartily recommend it!

The Bell Pettigrew Museum is open to the public in July and August on Tuesdays and Fridays between 2-5pm.Upcoming children’s events at the Bell Pettigrew include the ‘Birdspotting’ event on Wednesday 2nd April, and ‘Bug Hunt’ on Saturday 7th June. To book email museumlearning@st-andrews.ac.uk or call 01334 461663/1660. To find out more about the Bell Pettigrew Museum visit http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/bellpet/

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