Published On: Friday, 10 August 2018
VI Creature Teachers Presents The Wild Side
CAMPBELL RIVER: Put the wild in your hands with Vancouver Island Creature Teachers. Based in Black Creek, this unique experience-based business provides hands-on introductions to exotic animals including snakes, lizards, frogs, tarantulas and more.
Throughout the week owner Jennifer Lestage, husband Chris and some post-secondary biology students travel Vancouver Island, bringing some of their approximately 80 animals to public shows. They are often booked for birthday parties, seniors’ care homes, schools, and for community events.
“When we come, everyone gets to safely handle and interact with various reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates,” Jennifer Lestage explains. It is fun and exciting for all but Lestage also has a more serious purpose: education.
She was initially involved with reptiles as a breeder supplying retail pet stores. But as the boom in exotic pets intensified, she recognized a problem. Many people did not know how to care for their unusual pets and since there were few experts available, sick and abandoned reptiles ended up on her doorstep.
“There was a severe lack of knowledge,” she said. Equipped with a background in Environmental Sciences and Small Business Management, she founded VI Creature Teachers in 2012 to address the issue. Her goal was education by entertainment. Her tools were her menagerie of exotic animals, many of which had required rescue.
Initially, the venture had a few bookings a month, then a few a week as word spread. Soon Vancouver Island Creature Teachers was thriving, with bookings doubling and tripling year by year. Lestage earned two Young Professional of the Year awards from the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce.
They are now booked up to five months in advance. Many bookings are repeat customers, who are thrilled with the opportunity to handle some of the world’s more unusual creatures, learning in person instead of through a screen.
“For a generation that is glued to the screen, it is easy to disconnect ourselves from nature and wildlife,” Lestage said. By putting their hands on a reptile or giant snake or box turtle, people build connections to nature.
“We work hard to ensure people care about the future of these animals and our planet.”
The presentations also stress animal care. The animals at VI Creature Teachers were all rescued or re-homed and come with sometimes shocking stories: heat-loving reptiles left outside in the middle of winter, reptiles falling ill due to improper care, and some exotic pets abandoned when the novelty wore off and the owners became bored.
“These animals often require specialized care, environments, and diet,” Lestage said. But even if exotic creatures are not pets for everyone, everyone can still experience them. Visit www.vicreatureteachers.com to take a walk on the wild side.