Saving Wildlife International visits the Yucaipa Library with a variety of fascinating critters

Jasper hangs on to Mehren as he walks around the room.

Each summer, the Yucaipa Branch Library hosts a Summer Reading Program. It is designed to keep kids reading throughout the summer months. In addition to the Summer Reading Program the library offers special events. On Monday, July 8, the fifth week of the program, visitors were treated to a wild animal show presented by Saving Wildlife International (SWI), a nonprofit organization.

According to its website, Saving Wildlife International has shared its commitment to wildlife conservation and diverse audiences ranging from school classrooms to national television since April 2000. SWI provides displaced animals with a purpose and permanent home.

Steve Mehren, SWI’s Founder and Executive Director, showed 10 different animals to the large audience at the library. Mehren began with two rules for the audience, the first being to stay quiet when animals are brought out, as to not scare them. “The second rule, and I might cry if you do not follow this one, is that you must have fun,” said Mehren.

The first animal Mehren shared was Coconut the African albino pigmy hedgehog. Mehren gave facts about the hedgehog such as they eat bugs and after will foam at the mouth and wipe it all over their spikes to help deter predators.

Next, Mehren shared Chewy a South American paca. Pacas are the sixth largest rodent in the world and can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes.

Willow, a North African fennec fox, seemed to enjoy the attention as Mehren told guests about the species. The fennec is the smallest species of canid or wild dog in the world and they tend to weigh between 3 and 5 pounds. They have unusually large ears to help with the heat and allow for listening for prey under the sand.

Gumbo, an American alligator went to live at SWI after he was confiscated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Alligators can grow to be over 12 feet long and weigh up to 500 pounds. The American alligator has been a federally protected alligator since 1967. It was removed from the endangered species list in 1987 and today there are over 4 million in the United States.

Before Irwin, an Australian kookaburra, was brought out, Mehren asked for help from an audience member. One special person was picked to head up and help Mehren get Irwin to make noises. The kookaburra’s call is often associated with jungle themed movies.

Bowie an endangered boa constrictor from Madagascar, smells with his tongue and can swallow an entire watermelon in one bite.

Prince the African pixie Frog, is the second largest frog in the world. African frogs normally live in the Savannahs of Africa in watering holes. “These frogs do something very gross, during the dry season they ooze mucus around themselves to keep in the moisture while they hibernate. When the rainy season comes, they get out of the ‘booger’ and then eat it,” said Mehren.

A California desert tortoise, named Hilda was introduced and Mehren explained the importance of not bothering them in the desert, “It is very important that if you happen to run into a desert tortoise you do not touch it and definitely do not take it home. When they are scared, they pee and it can dehydrate them and cause them to not survive.”

A three banded armadillo named Rolland was reluctant to come out of his ball. Three banded armadillos come from South America.

Last but not least was Jasper a capuchin monkey from the Amazon. Jasper has a very long tail and can support his entire body weight from it. She joined the SWI family four years ago and seemed to be the crowed favorite.

Mehren ended the show telling the kids, “Want to help the planet and our animals? Learn more! The more you know the more you can help. Simple things such as turning the water off while you brush your teeth to conserve water can help tremendously.”

On Monday, July 15, the library will host “One World Rhythm” a music and percussion show at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.

The Yucaipa Branch Library is located at 12040 Fifth St. in Yucaipa. It is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information about the library and/or its programs, call 790-3146.

For more information about Saving Wildlife International, visit


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