Mike Kohirieser with a capuchin monkey from South America. The monkey is just one of several animals at ‘Live on Stage: The Rainforest’ at Oakwood Elementary school April 12. Photo provided.
By Susan Bromley
– Rainforests are home to about half of the world’s plant and animal species, despite only comprising about 6 percent of Earth’s land surface.
The unique ecosystems are found only near the equator, but at 6:30 p.m., April 12, Mike Kohlrieser will bring “Live on Stage: The Rainforest” to Oakwood Elementary School, 2839 Oakwood Road. Tickets are $5 at the door.
“What is unique about our show— a lot of times, there are really good programs and they give good factual info, but we take it a step farther,” said Kohlrieser, founder of Understanding Wildlife, Inc. “The majority of our audience is 12 and under, it needs to be fun. We have a very unique approach to our presentations and without giving away how the show goes, it appears to be run by the animals. With the animals in charge and the trainers as the fall guy, it makes for a very interesting presentation.”
Kohlrieser will be bringing to Oakwood a number of animals that represent those found in rainforests, including lemurs, alligators, Kinkajous, and several species of birds, snakes, and monkeys.
The son of an animal handler, Kohlrieser had a wild childhood himself and has worked with animals his entire adult life. In the late 1980s, he and his wife Marcia were involved in wildlife conservation efforts and founded Understanding Wildlife, Inc. in Ohio. They soon expanded, offering their comedy shows featuring animals to schools all over the midwest, including Indiana and Michigan. Understanding Wildlife, Inc. is a member of the Zoological Association of America and has a 7-acre compound in Wapakoneda, Ohio, where the animals are in the summer, when not traveling.
Kohlrieser gets animals from other ZAA members that are doing conservation programs.
“They really seem to enjoy getting out and doing the shows,” he said of the animals. “There are behaviors they learn, but these are fun things we do with them, so it’s a neat experience for the animals as well.”
Understanding Wildlife, Inc. has put on the rainforest show for two decades, and Kohlrieser said he makes tweaks to the one-hour and 20-minute show nearly everyday.
“We want the kids to see exactly what it is we stand to lose if we don’t take an environmentally friendly position toward life,” he said. “It’s the way we choose to live our lives day in and day out that ultimately affects the world we live in.”
He is happy to help educate the kids through a fun show and said some kids still don’t believe what they are seeing in the rainforest show.
“In this day and age, occasionally after students see birds fly over their heads in the presentation, they will actually think someone was operating the birds with a remote control,” said Kohlrieser. “It blows my mind and says a lot right there. They need to know these animals are real and what we have if we want to get them excited about taking care of them. If they come to the show, they can expect to have a good time and a new appreciation for the rainforest and the animals.”