This lizard is one of 20 real animals on display in the new Museum of Idaho exhibit called “Under the Canopy: Animals of the Rainforest.” | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS – The Museum of Idaho is doing something it’s never done before in its 41st exhibit debuting this weekend.
“Under the Canopy: Animals of the Rainforest” opens to the public on Saturday, Oct. 7. Aside from showcasing one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, Jeff Carr, the museum’s executive director, tells EastIdahoNews.com this exhibit will have around 20 live animals on display.
The museum is partnering with the Idaho Falls Zoo and Little Rays Nature Centres, the exhibit company, to care for the animals during its run.
“We have top-notch people here who know what they’re doing to care for the animals constantly,” Carr says.
One of the standout attractions is Romeo the sloth. Though sloths are typically slow on the ground, multiple staff members say sloths are incredibly fast when swinging through trees and they’re fun to watch.
Romeo the sloth inside his cage at the Museum of Idaho. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
There are a wide selection of lizards on display as well that employees are excited for people to see.
Alex Leclerc, the exhibits manager for Little Rays, says there will be live presentations at the museum several times a day where the public will have a chance to touch and interact with some of the animals.
The museum is also offering VIP encounters, where guests can pay to follow an animal handler for 20-30 minutes, including going inside Romeo’s cage and using tongs to help feed him.
“Our goal is to inspire and educate people … about the natural world up close and personal. (We want people) to learn about how they can help, and how important it (the rainforest) is to us, even in eastern Idaho,” Leclerc says. “They’re very important to ecosystems all over the world.”
Rod Hansen is the exhibits director at the Museum of Idaho. His role includes selecting the exhibits that come to the museum and managing a crew that helps set it up.
Some of the displays at the “Animals of the rainforest” exhibit. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
There were multiple reasons behind bringing the rainforest exhibit to Idaho Falls. Hansen says he was intrigued by Little Rays use of live animals to teach people lessons about stewardship.
“That’s a brilliant tactic because people come in and start to put faces or bodies with an environment. Suddenly, it becomes much more important, even though it’s halfway across the world,” Hansen explains.
The same thing that intrigued him also made him a little cautious initially. In the beginning, he was concerned about their ability to care for the animals properly. He reached out to the zoo for advice. But he also wanted to make sure he wasn’t stepping on their toes by bringing this type of exhibit to town.
He was reassured when Little Rays informed him about an accredited organization they work with that makes sure crews maintain a certain standard of care.
He also had the full support of the zoo staff.
“Most of the time (this exhibit is) open, the zoo is closed,” Hansen says. “We try to bring new thoughts and ideas into this area. We always says that we’re bringing Idaho to the world and the world to Idaho, and this (exhibit) is certainly doing that.”
“Under the Canopy” will be on display through early May. It’s open seven days a week. Admission is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors, and $12 for youth.
“This is something brand new for us,” Carr says. “There’s a wonderful rainforest feeling in here and I think people are really going to enjoy feeling immersed in this environment right here in eastern Idaho. You get the sound, the light, the color and the humidity, in addition to the cute animals. It’s a unique experience for our region.”
A zoo employee watering the snake enclosure at the Museum of Idaho. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
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