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Getting Wild

What's on your mind, crocodile? Where have you been, Mr. Owl? How's your cholesterol, Flipper?

If your curiosity about wild creatures and their habitats keeps you up at night, you might need to go see them for yourself. Of course, chatting up a croc face-to-face is a daunting proposition. A trip to Wildlife Weekend, the annual creature-friendly and environmentally educational festival at the Miami Museum of Science, may answer your questions from the comfort of a safe distance.

For two days wildlife experts and environmental researchers will be addressing some of the issues around Florida's wild birds and animals. The event is an early celebration of Earth Day (April 22), and brings to attention some of the main environmental problems affecting all creatures as human populations continue to expand and pollute nature.

Dr. Frank Mazzotti, a biologist at the University of Florida, tells of the mysteries of the American crocodile and the challenges it faces as it bounces back from endangered species designation. Mazzotti has been studying the toothy swamp critters since 1977 and has been instrumental in developing programs for their survival.

Dr. Greg Bossart, director of Marine Mammal Research and Conservation at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, gives a health assessment of the Indian River Lagoon bottleneck dolphin. Bossart has been responsible for detecting viruses in manatees similar to those that cause cervical cancer in women.

Other speakers will be on hand to discuss the fine points of falconry, the encroachment of suburban sprawl on fragile ecosystems, and responsible pet ownership. So if you have something to discuss with your buddy the crocodile or his pal the Siberian-Bengal tiger mix, perhaps now is the time to get things off your chest.

There will be ongoing games and activities for children, including the Eco-Warrior Challenge and Animal Architects, a peek at how some animals build their homes.


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