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Reptiles, amphibians and arthropods, oh my!

ESCONDIDO — They bite, constrict and slither all around, yet the reptilian contingent at the Escondido EcoVivarium provides hundreds of smiles, laughs and perhaps, a few screeches.

Nevertheless, children will flock to the nonprofit to learn about reptiles, amphibians and arthropods.

Susan Nowicke, executive director of EcoVivarium, said the nonprofit’s much anticipated living museum will open July 15. A celebration event from 4:30 to 8 p.m. is planned.

“It’s the culmination of the past seven years of work to finally get the doors open,” Nowicke said. “Visitors get hands-on experience with the reptiles, amphibians and bugs.”

The center gas dozens of species with one of the foremost collections in the world, Nowicke said. EcoVivarium rivals some of the best zoos in the world, she added.

However, 98 percent of the animals are rescued, rehabilitated and trained by the staff to educate children and adults alike.

The educational opportunities, though, is the driving force behind EcoVivarium, Nowicke added. The animals provide lessons in history, science, religion, culture, art and other aspects of life.

The museum, she said, provides a new avenue of outreach, which adds elements of entertainment and education to the community.

“We want to show them (visitors) that there is so much more to these animals,” Nowicke added.

The collection of animals includes hissing cockroaches, praying mantises, lizards, pythons and anacondas. In the coming weeks or months, Nowicke said the museum will also take on a baby alligator once their permit is finalized.

“He’s actually waiting for us in Arizona right now,” she said. “He was brought illegally into the United States. This little guy is a rescue.”

The center also embarks on its summer camps, which include Reptile Explorers and Ectotherms in Art. Nowicke said the art program will coincide with Cruisin’ Grand as the artwork will be on display to those passing by during the annual Friday street festival.

The reptile and ectortherms camps continue July 25 and Aug. 8.

The explorers camp, Nowicke said, focuses on the biology, science and dietary needs of the animals. From 9 a.m.-3 p.m., the kids are hands on with the animals learning about all aspects of those species.

As for Ectotherms in Art, Nowicke said campers will work with all three groups of animals — reptiles, amphibians and bugs — learning about their influence on humans throughout history.

“Each day we explore a different culture or group and in that we look at the influence in art,” she added. “For example, the Aborigines (indigenous people from Australia) created an art called dot art. Because they had no written language, they would sketch out maps on tree bark. They would do an intricate dot art and included serpents, lizards and bugs in art.”

For more about the museum or camps, call (760) 975-9690 or visit                  

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