Local animal education group brings exhibit to campus

USM students had the chance to meet a new reptilian friend on the way to class last Wednesday thanks to a local wildlife education and awareness group.

Life’s Wild Adventures traveled to the USM campus from Louisiana with turtles, a tegu and snakes that students could touch for a five dollar donation.

Life’s Wild Adventures is a YouTube channel aimed at educating its viewers about animals and conservation. Channel host Zachary Gray says it’s been going on for five years and now has 63,000 subscribers.

The activity was educational fun, but also served an important purpose for the group.

“All proceeds from this go towards research and eventual conservation at private facilities as well as public outreach programs in southern Mississippi,” said Zachary Gray, host of Life’s Wild Adventure.

Specifically, Gray said the event will help Life’s Wild Adventures raise money for Sandhill Conservation in southern Mississippi.

Many students on their way to class or passing by stopped in Shoemaker Square to see what the fuss was about with the initial shock factor of seeing snakes on campus.

“When I walked out of class my friend told me there were snakes here, you should come and touch them,” said first-year social work student Aaliyah Lee. “I don’t really do snakes, but after I got out of class I saw everyone and just came over here and they were really good at introducing me, saying go and do it.”

In the circle of attention was Snek, a 16-foot-long platinum reticulated python, which is the largest species of snake in the world. The students took turns gathering the courage to hold Snek.

“Everyone on USM has been amazing. We’ve had such great reactions,” Gray said. “Everyone is getting into it, even people who don’t like snakes have warmed up to her. [Snek] and at least manage to caress it. A lot of people overcame their fear and went ahead and held it, so that was really awesome.

Lee was one of the students who overcame her fear and really enjoyed holding Snek, saying she would do it again.

“The snake was really heavy. At first I was really scared because of his size, but once I got him I was fine,” Lee said.

Gray said Snek is an “incredible” trainer because she can easily handle the presence of others.

Students were able to interact with other animals that Life’s Wild Adventures had such as the tegu, a large species of lizard.

Gray said Life’s Wild Adventures appreciated the students’ response to having fun with the animals while helping them achieve their goal of helping wildlife conservation efforts.

“Here in Mississippi, he really needs it [conservation] and these animals are just a great way to get everyone involved because they’re just amazing,” Gray said.

Follow Life’s Wild Adventures on YouTube at www.youtube.com/c/LifesWildAdventures to learn more about their efforts.

Watch Southern Miss TV’s coverage of the event during the April 27 newscast on the Southern Miss Student Media YouTube page.

Sam D. Gomez