Zoo animals bring feathery, furry fun to base exchange



by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs


11/24/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- This kind of eagle never makes an appearance at Maxwell's Gathering of Eagles.

Aspen, a 16-year-old golden eagle, stretched and flapped her wings, impressing children and adults alike during her visit to Maxwell Air Force Base Thursday. She was among about 10 animals, big and small, on display in a tent in the base exchange parking lot.

Aspen is an older sister to Nova, the golden eagle that often soars over Jordan-Hare Stadium before Auburn University football games, said senior docent Wayne Brantley, who served as Aspen's handler during the visit.

The animals are part of the Montgomery Zoo's Education Department collection, said Jennifer Murphy, education curator. She was joined by three docents, volunteers who handled and shared facts about the animals. Visitors to the animal display included busloads of children from the Maxwell Child Development Center.

Sherry Calloway, services business manager with Army and Air Force Exchange Services, arranged for the animals to make their appearance on base, said Mike Peters, base exchange visual merchandiser and public affairs representative.

A feathery friend much smaller than Aspen perched on Ms. Murphy's forearm - Dusty, the one-eyed owl. The little bird lost his eye in a collision with a car, and was rehabilitated by Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine before being given to the zoo. The owl wasn't released back into the wild because the lost eye kept Dusty from "passing the mouse test," which determined whether or not he could catch prey and survive in the wild, she said.

Education program animals, and their docents, can often be seen roaming the zoo grounds, particularly during school field trips and other special zoo events. They can also be spotted at noteworthy events such as Jubilee CityFest and Flimp Festival, said Ms. Murphy.