The sights and sounds of the rainforest filled the gymnasium of the North Pocono Middle School on the evening of October 12 as Mike Kohlrieser presented his “Live on Stage: The Rainforest” show. Mr. Kohlrieser represents Understanding Wildlife, a non-profit organization that travels nationwide with an entertaining and educational program featuring live animals in order to raise awareness of the need to conserve rainforest environments
Students at the Jefferson Elementary Center enjoyed the program earlier in the day, then the show was offered free at the Middle School to the community that evening.
The well-attended program began with a recording of rainforest sounds and a recitation of facts about the world’s rainforests. The opening segment included information about human activities that are harming the rainforest, including logging and deforestation to create cropland.
Mr. Kohlrieser reinforced the idea of the need to preserve the rainforest throughout the show, informing students that rainforests provide much of the world’s oxygen, are the source of many ingredients for medications, and host the planet’s most diverse populations of plants and wildlife.
In order to emphasize the need to preserve rainforests, Mr. Kohlrieser, who is a skilled animal handler, builds his performance around discussing various species of animals. Included in the program were several tropical birds, including a green winged macaw, a blue and gold macaw, a yellow necked Amazon macaw, a white crested cockatoo, and a keel billed toucan.
The birds performed many tricks to amuse the audience, including speaking, flying to retrieve a dollar bill from an audience member, and being fed by children from the audience. “We travel all over because if people see how beautiful and intelligent these birds are, people will be more inclined to help them in the wild,” Mr. Kohlrieser explained to the audience.
A red tailed boa constrictor, two small American alligators, and a large American alligator represented some of the reptiles found in tropical environments. Four children from the audience were selected to join Mr. Kohlrieser onstage to hold the boa constrictor, which measured several feet in length, while he discussed the physical characteristics and hunting habits of the impressive snake.
Also featured in the show were a ruffed lemur, a capuchin monkey, and a little brown dog named Bug, who Mr. Kohlrieser explained was rescued from an animal shelter. Rascal, the monkey, proved to be quite a trickster, stealing the show by snatching Mr. Kohlrieser’s hairpiece right off his head.
As the show ended, Mr. Kohlrieser reminded the audience that they can make an impact on the future of the rainforest and its myriad of animals, despite living thousands of miles away. “How we choose to live our lives right now is what their future will be like. So get involved! Recycle! Support other non-profits! Make this a better world!” he advised.