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Thursday, August 18, 2022
Survival of the Slowest brings slow exotic animals to the Butterfly Conservatory



Niagara Parks invites you to slow down this Family Day weekend with the Survival of the Slowest exhibit by Little Ray’s Nature Centre, and director Kevin Dungey says he hopes the exhibit will foster a passion for “backyard conservation.”

The exhibit was created for the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory by Little Ray's in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature, and will run from Feb. 15 until May 31.

Dungey says although this exhibit focuses on exotic animals, he hopes it will ignite a spark in children to ask questions about conservation, and to bring that interest back home.

In Ontario there are more than 200 native animals at risk of extinction, and he says many people don’t even know that some of those animals exist.

“I can walk into a Grade 12 classroom and ask them to name five species at risk.”

He says students respond with tigers, elephants and pandas. But when he asks them to name five Ontario species at risk he’s often met with no response.

“We can’t do anything to help something if we don’t even know what it is,” he says.

Hands-on learning opportunities provided by Little Ray’s are something he hopes will help create that lifelong passion to do something to help protect the animals.

While television programs and YouTube channels can provide some insight, he says nothing beats coming out and actually interacting with the animals.

“What we're trying to do is to get them off their screens and passionate about nature. And I tell people all the time, YouTube isn't going to teach you what a snake feels like,” he says.

“Nature documentaries and videos definitely have their place but if you take your child sitting on the couch watching TV, okay. And then you take another child, and you take a turtle and you put it right in their hands; that creates that connection to nature.”

Dungey says he doesn’t see passion being created by watching videos about nature. It’s when young people are interacting with the animals in person he says their “faces light up.”

“It makes me think that hopefully the champion will carry that passion with them into adulthood,” he adds.

The new exhibit at the Butterfly Conservatory will offer that opportunity to see some of natures slowest creatures up close.

Barry the two-towed sloth, ironically named for Barry Allen, also known as the Flash, is arguably the highlight of the exhibit. But Hammer the green iguana is sure to catch your eye cohabitating with the red-footed tortoises. And though green iguanas aren’t typically slow animals, Dungey says the iguana was included in the exhibit because he compliments the tortoises.

Little Ray's Nature Centres, based out of Ottawa, was founded in 1995 as a family-based educational outreach program and reptile rescue. It has since grown to the largest exotic animal rescue in Canada. The organization is nationally accredited by the Canadian Association of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums and licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

The collaboration between Little Ray's and the Niagara Parks has been running since about the inception of Family Day, a Niagara Parks official said. New exhibits and interactive experiences are featured each year, debuting on Family Day weekend.

Admission to the Butterfly Conservatory, which includes access to the Survival of the Slowest Exhibit, costs $16.50 for adults and $10.75 for children six to 12 years old. Children five years and younger are free.

The Niagara Falls Wonder Pass includes admission to the Butterfly Conservatory, as well as Journey Behind the Falls, Niagara's Fury, and the Floral Showhouse, and a two-day WEGO bus and two days on the Falls Incline Railway. The pass costs $25 for adults, $17 for children and admission is free for children five years old and younger.