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Tehachapi Branch Library gets up close and personal with wildlife

By: Steve Martin | March 18, 2014

Tehachapi Branch Library gets up close and personal with wildlife

As part of Spring Break activities, Kern County Library arranged for Jeff Lee, of Working Wildlife fame, to spend about an hour on March 26 showing off just seven of his many wild animal residents with youngsters and oldsters alike. This was the fifth year Lee made the trip from Frazier Park.

Lee played to a standing room only audience as he awed them with animal antics from Tara, a white fronted capuchin monkey, (better known as "Jack" in Pirates of the Caribbean), Chance, an African cervel, Kinka the kinkajou, Ninja, a 65 pound Binturong, Taj the brown lemur, Gomer the gopher snake, and a huge hissing cockroach from Madagascar.

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"I didn't bring anything big enough to eat your children," Lee said as parents burst into laughter. "I brought my 'bomb proof' animal family. They've been tested and are kid-safe."

Nine-year-old Shane Stawski was chosen by Lee from the audience to assist him with two of the animals. While it was clearly visible that Shane wasn't all that excited about allowing the hissing cockroach to temporarily take up occupancy on the back side on his tee-shirt while Taj used him as a climbing post, he came through with shining colors as the audience laughed at Taj's climbing and jumping abilities (His relief was instantly clear, however, once the cockroach was retired to its container!)

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Lee not only talked about each individual animal and how it came to be part of his family, he also explained how the movie industry has progressed from training animals with aggressive tactics to using a medium length stick with a feather tied at the end to produce ferocious snarls and roars from big cats by simply tapping the feather on their nose.

"We want to promote a positive manner for training animals," Lee said. "We have trained animals for hundreds of movies including Daktari, Dances With Wolves, Racing Stripes and Pirates of the Caribbean," Lee shared. "And we've done all kinds of commercials with our animals."

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As Lee spoke, he taught about safety with animals and what not to do to impress a girl. And he stressed that wild animals are just that - wild. - as he answered questions from the young audience.

"Let it remain wild," he said. "Even if you think you're helping, often times you're not - just leave it alone. If it's hurt, call animal control because they know what to do."
Educating people about wild animals is part of Lee's calling.

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