Students at USM had the chance to meet a new reptilian friend on the way to class last Wednesday thanks to a local wildlife education and awareness group.
Life’s Wild Adventures traveled to the USM campus from Louisiana with tortoises, a tegu and snakes that students could touch for a donation of five dollars.
Life’s Wild Adventures is a YouTube channel aiming to educate its viewers about animals and conservation. The channel’s host Zachary Gray says that it has been going on for five years and now has 63,000 followers.
The activity was for educational fun but also served an important purpose for the group.
“All the proceeds from this are going towards research and eventual conservation within private facilities as well as public outreach programs in South Mississippi,” Life’s Wild Adventure host Zachary Gray said.
Specifically, Gray said the event will help Life’s Wild Adventures fundraise for Sandhill Conservation in south Mississippi.
Many students on their way to class or passing by stopped at Shoemaker Square to see what the setup was about with the initial shock factor of seeing snakes on campus.
“When I got out of class, my friend had told me there are some snakes out here, you should come to touch them,” freshman social work major Aaliyah Lee said. “I don’t really do snakes but after I got out of class, I saw everybody and I just came over here and they were really good introducing me, saying come on and just do it.”
The circle of attention was Snek, a 16-foot-long platinum reticulated python, which is the world’s largest snake species. Students took turns gathering the courage to hold Snek.
“Everybody on USM’s been amazing. We’ve got so many great reactions,” Gray said. “Everybody’s getting into it, even people that don’t like snakes have been warming up to her [Snek] and getting to at least pet her. A lot of people overcame their fear and just went ahead and held her so it’s been really great.”
Lee was one of the students who overcame her fear and actually enjoyed holding Snek, saying she would do it again.
“The snake was really heavy. At first, I was really scared because of how big it is but once I got it, it was ok,” Lee said.
Gray said Snek is an “incredible” education animal because she can handle being around others easily.
Students got to interact with other animals that Life’s Wild Adventures had like the tegu, a large lizard species.
Gray said that Life’s Wild Adventures appreciated the response from students to have fun with the animals while also helping them towards their goal of aiding wildlife conservation efforts.
“Here in Mississippi, it really needs it [conservation] and these animals are just a great way to get everybody into it because they are just amazing,” Gray said.
Follow Life’s Wild Adventures on YouTube at www.youtube.com/c/LifesWildAdventures to see more about their efforts.
Watch Southern Miss TV’s coverage of the event on April 27’s newscast on the Southern Miss Student Media YouTube page.