Educating kids through petting zoos

(Left to right) Dale Durell, Olivia Durell and Renee Durell hold animals from their farm in their arms on August 4, 2016 at the Prince Albert Exhibition. The family runs Ol' McDale's Friendly Farm in Melfort, where they keep their animals for their travelling petting zoo. They've been at the PAEX for three years now. (Bianca Bharti/Daily Herald)

Bianca Bharti, Daily Herald

Bunnies, a quail exhibit, bees, a llama, an alpaca, goats, sheep, ducks, donkeys, a calf. These were just some of the roughly 18 species of animals at the Prince Albert Exhibition’s petting zoo.

Hailing from Melfort, the animals are from Ol’ McDales Friendly Farm, operated by the Durell family.

Dale, Renee and their daughter Olivia have been running their travelling zoo for over three years now, making a stop every year at the exhibition.

Their main purpose is to educate kids and introduce them to farm animals, said the family

“Kids are usually terrified of them until they see the animals are nice and they just want to get pet,” Olivia said.

With increasing urbanization of cities and industrialization of farms, interaction with animals becomes limited, Dale said.

A little girl was surprised when she discovered that eggs come from hens, he said. She always thought eggs are just produced at the grocery store.

One exhibit Dale’s really proud to have this year is the beehive, which is a new addition. “(It) has become a lot more popular than I thought. They’re curious about the bees in there. You can put your ear next to (the) black hole and you can hear them working.”

Most people don’t see the inner workings of a hive, nor how honey is made. It’s exciting to see people take an interest because bees are so important to our food supply, he said.

“I’ve been amazed at how many people enjoy it. Everybody takes a second to look.”

If kids are hesitant, the family eases them into getting comfortable with bigger animals. There’s a live quail exhibit that shows the life cycle of the bird from egg to adult. They even have Lloyd the llama who’s very friendly, and hasn’t spit at anyone in 15 years, according to his sign.

“(Lloyd) is always the star of the show,” Renee said. The family often rotates their roster of animals to give them a rest. “We don’t switch Lloyd out. He even loads himself in the trailer.”

There’s also a bunny hut that kids can go into and pet the rabbits.

Next year, the Durell family said they’d love to introduce more new additions. Olivia talked about including an egg incubator so people can watch eggs hatch. Dale talked about including a chicken that could play the piano.

“It’s not consistent enough. I keep telling Renee next year I’ll have it trained right but it hasn’t quite worked out yet,” he laughed.