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Zoo expo teaches children to love animals

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 22, 2012 at 7:04 p.m.
Updated April 21, 2012 at 11:22 p.m.

Steven Lawrence and 6-year-old Logan Lawrence, of Victoria, play a carnival game at the Earth Day Expo at the Texas Zoo on Sunday afternoon.

DID YOU KNOW?

April 22 is International Mother Earth Day.

Earth Day is credited to U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin. Nelson died in 2005.

The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. More than 20 million people participated that year.

Earth Day is observed by more than 500 million people people in 175 countries.

Source: Earthday.org

When Emma Milam put on her green and pink outfit Sunday morning, complete with matching green and pink flower headband, she knew she was making a statement.

But her statement wasn't fashion - it was a nod to Earth Day.

Emma, 8, a third-grader at Nazareth Academy, attended the Earth Day Expo at the Texas Zoo with her family on Sunday - mother, Nina Milam, father, Michael, and 3-year-old brother, Evan - to experience a day of educational activities designed to lead and motivate the community to be good stewards of the Earth.

Emma also had the opportunity to hear one of her favorite singers, Lucas Miller, the singing zoologist.

"She really loves him. She's seen him sing several times," Emma's father said. "He calls her his biggest fan."

Lucas, an Austin singer-songwriter, travels around Texas singing scientifically accurate songs about animals and their habitats.

"I just like him a lot," Emma said.

Emma said it's important for people to acknowledge Earth Day, so they learn how to take care of the world around them: the water, the soil, the animals.

"Some of the animals are becoming extinct, and we're polluting the air, and it can hurt their stomachs," Emma said.

Michael Milam said he's not surprised with his daughter's interest in Earth-related fun. Their family employs an eco-friendly attitude in their home throughout the year and make a point to learn about how everyday behavior can impact area habitats.

"We recycle and use energy-efficient light bulbs. We don't drive an eco-friendly car, but I work about a mile from my house, so I don't spend that much money on gas," Milam said. "We wanted our home to go completely solar, but it was too expensive."

Milam also drove Emma about two hours to North Padre Island at 3:30 a.m. a few weeks ago to watch the release of sea turtles back into the Gulf.

The Earth Day Expo was a first-time collaboration between the Texas Zoo and the city of Victoria Environmental Services.

Texas Zoo program director Amanda Rocha said the zoo animals and other Earth Day activities at the Expo were teaching tools to engage children about how everyday lifestyles can impact the lives and habitats of wild animals.

"One of the things we do is use amphibians to talk to children about water quality," Rocha said. "It's important to talk about Earth Day and how the community can get involved."

More than 650 attendees visited the zoo for the Earth Day Expo, Rocha said, which also included training demonstrations with the tigers, bounce houses, games and prizes.

At the conclusion of Miller's performance Sunday, singing zoology-related tunes such as, "The Fire Ant Song," Emma greeted her favorite singer.

Miller, 43, said he has a passion for children learning about nature and animals, and believes they will be Earth-friendly adults if you can get them interested in zoology at an early age.

"It starts when you're young, making a bond with the natural world," Miller said. "We respect what we have when we get to know about it. We have a natural inclination to take care of the things we love."

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