homepage logo

Ashkar “Swings” Into A Rainforest

By Staff | Jan 13, 2010

Pictured holding a Burmese Python left to right are William Hugar, age 7, of Hughesville, Hannah Lewis, age 9 ½, of Williamsport, Sydney Millheim, age 7, of Hughesville, Brennan Ryder, age 11, of Picture Rocks, Brittin Balliet, age 10, of Picture Rocks, David Barto, age 10, of Hughesville, and Devin Maciejewski, age 7, of Muncy, and Mike Kohlrieser

On January 11th, a unique and thrilling Rain Forest Program, “Understanding Wildlife, Inc.”, captivated the students, staff, and community of Hughesville and the surrounding towns. “Understanding Wildlife. Inc.”, is a not-for profit organization, based in Wapakoneta, Ohio that was founded in 1992 by Mike Kohlrieser.

The animals arrived in a 68-foot custom-made truck especially designed for the animals. When asked if the animals mind the cold weather, Kohlrieser replies” They don’t even know it’s winter!” During the day all three elementary schools had the chance to preview the animals. The students were able to see a King Snake called Slink, a Red-tailed Boa named Ralph, a Capuchin Monkey named Rascal, a Blue and Gold Macaw, named Kelly, a small green baby bird named Charlie, and an adorable pair of Kinkajous named Jack and Jill. Several of the 2nd grade girls commented, ” Did you know that Jill actually had pink painted nails?” And Jack’s were blue, that was weird”. Kelly, at 16 years old, is the oldest animal in the show. Kelly flew over the children’s heads several times, and kept everyone amused. Mr. Mike told the audience that he has a bird at home that sounds like my wife. “It goes Mike!” Two Ashkar teachers, Sue Johnson, and Lisa Ammar-Khodja, volunteered to hold a snake. They did a great job.

The interactive program at night gave some lucky students the opportunity to actually handle the animals. Everyone during the day had a chance to see them up close. Ashkar Principal Suzanne Foresman said “I was very excited about the opportunity to bring this program to the Elementary Students of the East Lycoming School District. This program provides our students with an opportunity to experience the rainforest animals and their habitat. The audience will walk away with a feeling of hope and promise to make this world for future.”

Mr. Mike told the students that the evening shows would include alligators, big cats, and more snakes. On leaving the program a teacher said “It was awesome!” and a Pre-K student said, “That was really cool!”

The two evening shows were held at the Ashkar Gymnasium. The show is called “Live on Stage: The Rainforest”. The night shows promised lots and lots of animals, and the sights and sounds of the rainforest. Admission was $5 at the door per person, with children 3 and under free. Refreshments, and souvenirs to take a memory of the rain forest home, were available to purchase.

Mike Kohlreiser, head animal trainer (who introduced himself as Mr. Mike), and his rain forest program have been exciting students and communities for over four decades from coast to coast. A life long dream, Kohlrieser has dedicated his life to caring for animals and spreading educational messages about appreciating and respecting the Animal Kingdom. When asked what he finds the most rewarding, Kohlrieser said “It’s the reaction I get from both kids and adults and the enthusiasm and excitement that these animals create for the audience”.

Kohlrieser’s commitment to make right what man has done to harm the natural ecosystems, and his educational messages have been paving the way for students to pick up his lead and begin to take measures to repair the damage. Kohlrieser’s message about the positive rewards of recycling, and conserving energy are two important ways in which people of all ages can help make our environment a better place to live. He encouraged the students to visit the library and read books about the tropical rain forest and endangered species. He said, ” The more we read the more knowledge we have.”

Mike Kohlrieser created an atmosphere of a lush, tropical rainforest in the Ashkar Gymnasium complete with sights and sounds. Who needs 3-D glasses when you have real life jungle birds, reptiles, and animals right in front of you!