Local museum full of animals native to this region

By Jim Lee: PNT columnist

We have all of this coming week to prepare for April Fools’ Day, which is Friday.

I originally planned to set up a gag to honor this annual event, but I would never sink to such an act.

What I want to bring up, though, is a new exhibit at the Roosevelt County Museum of Natural History and Needlepoint. As we all know, this institution houses living animals native to this region. Unlike the natural history museum at Eastern New Mexico University, it has many animals most of us don’t know about.

Few of us look at the thousands of insect species with whom we share the great Llano Estacado. Few of us notice the relatively unusual sight of red-wing blackbirds. Nor do we appreciate the high intelligence and mimicry of the boattail grackle so common in the area. We rarely think of the elusive cougar (aka mountain lion or puma) unless we happen to be loading rifles.

These species, along with so many others, are lovingly cared for at this museum. I have my reservations about the affiliated scorpion petting zoo, but I enjoy visiting the place very much and go there every chance I get.

I especially enjoy observing the fauna one rarely sees on the high plains of eastern New Mexico and West Texas. Many I never even heard of until I actually saw living examples of them at this remarkable museum.

As much as I enjoy attending the museum (hours available by telephone), I found raising the admission price to a nickel quite excessive. It’s not that I’m cheap, it’s the principle of the thing. I often dropped up to a dime in the donation box, but paying admission on top of that — well, I think not.

Another change that really bothers me is the introduction of non-native animals. This is supposed to be about the wildlife of eastern New Mexico and West Texas, not the Negev Rain Forest. I suppose this will raise awareness of the institution and stimulate more contributions, but it seems like selling out to me.

I want to learn about what is around me here on our own vast plateau. I can go to some ho-hum regular zoo for all that foreign stuff. And those foreign critters may be Communists here to subliminally corrupt our innocent young people.

The newest living arrival, unless others have been acquired since my most recent visit, is a bizarre animal called the Tasmanian kavaloobie. As we all know, Tasmania’s isolation has caused animals to develop independent of nearby mainland Australia and consequently has become home to unusual inhabitants such as the world’s only two egg-laying mammals: the echidna and the platypus. Even more rare, the kavaloobie is the world’s only known marsupial reptile. This small animal (about three inches long) is venomous but only kills animals too large for it to eat. It then lies in wait for vultures. As soon as a vulture rips the kill into bite size pieces, the kavaloobie kills the big bird and waits for another scavenger to rip it up, thus perpetuating the cycle until it dies from terminal obesity.

The animal gives live birth. Upon birth, however, the babies (called congzibbles) immediately lay eggs, which they eat so they don’t starve before their first taste of shredded prey. Of course the museum is obligated to house an Australian vulture to make sure the kavaloobies maintain their natural diet.

I urge everyone to visit this wonderful museum see the living kavaloobie before it’s extinct. It is one of the area’s premiere attractions and is open year round.

Guess when the Tasmanian kavaloobie exhibit opens.
Yep. It’s Friday. A great way to start April, don’t you think?

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail:
dr_james_lee@hotmail.com