BROADALBIN – Despite the blistering cold outside, about 900 children and adults who filled the Broadalbin-Perth High School auditorium Wednesday night enjoyed an atmosphere that felt like a tropical rain forest.
Some children fed exotic birds, held an enormous snake and pet live alligators.
The sold-out event presented by the nonprofit organization Understanding Wildlife, operated by Mike and Marcia Kohlrieser, featured exotic birds, lemurs, monkeys, kinkajous, snakes and alligators for a program called Live on Stage, the Rain Forest.
The program travels the country providing humor and insightful knowledge about the rain forest’s habitat and the creatures living in it.
During the day, the animal trainers of Understanding Wildlife gave a presentation to students at The Learning Community and
B-P Intermediate School on how energy conservation and recycling can help save the animals of the rain forest.
At the evening show in the auditorium, children and adults were invited to interact with creatures whose natural habitat is the rain forest.
“We hope if people see how beautiful and intelligent [the animals] are, they’ll be more compelled to help them in the wild,” Mike Kohlrieser said about why this program travels the country educating thousands of children and adults.
While petting and looking at the exotic animals is what many parents may have ex-pected when they arrived, Broadalbin resident Tim Shields got a little more than he bargained for when he brought his 3-year- old son Blake to the live show.
Kohlrieser brought out a blue-winged macaw on stage and randomly selected Shields from the audience and advised him to hold a $1 bill in his hand. The macaw then flew across the auditorium and took the money out of his hand and returned it to the trainer on stage.
“It was exciting,” Shields said. “I was impressed it could do that on command like that, but I’m happy it wasn’t more than a dollar.”
His son was so impressed that he decided he wants a blue parrot just like the one that took money from his dad.
“I want a blue bird that talks to me,” 3-year-old Blake said. “But I hope he doesn’t talk to me all night.”
Several other children from the audience were invited on stage to be part of the program as well. They fed birds, held a snake and later pet live alligators.
The event featured educational information about the animals and humor through interaction with them.
Tyler Allen, an 8-year-old from Broadalbin, found the skit with the monkey named “Rascal” amusing. Kohlrieser chased the monkey around to try to get back the toupee the monkey removed from his head.
“I liked this whole thing,” Allen said. “The monkey was so funny.”
Understanding Wildlife was founded by Kohlrieser in the 1980s, when he and Marcia became increasingly aware of problems in the tropical rain forests, a news release said.
Using his background as an animal trainer and stage entertainer, Kohlrieser wanted to educate people about the animals facing possible extinction, the news release said.
The educational program is bringing to students the reality of what could be lost if people do not take care of the environment.
Kohlrieser told the audience the rain forest is vital in providing oxygen for the Earth as well as a valuable resource for the many medicines made around the world.
He advised those in attendance to make a difference by recycling, conserving energy and donating to similar non-profit organizations affiliated with the rain forest.
“This was the first time we brought the rain forest to Broadalbin-Perth,” said Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson. “We are bringing the rain forest here during probably the longest cold spell we have had in years in upstate New York, so I think that makes it even more unique. Our district is constantly looking for new ways to teach scientific information to our students, and this is just one way we are doing that.”