At the Zoo we have several animal species that many people refer to as creepy crawlers but these species all have important roles in the environment. We have several different species of tarantulas, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, vinegaroons, African giant millipedes, and thorny devil stick bugs. All of these animals make appearances around the zoo, go on outreaches, and are a part of our onsite school programs. Each of these creatures help us spread awareness about conservation and their unique roles.
Here is a spotlight on a few of our more “creepy” animal ambassadors.
Costa Rican Zebra Tarantulas are found in the rainforests of Costa Rica and other parts of Central America. They dig deep burrows and are nocturnal coming out at night to eat. They feed on primarily insects helping to control the insect population. Tarantulas have special hairs on their legs that allow them to sense vibrations in their surroundings. They can also flick these hairs at any predators causing irritation. In this species the males live about 3-5 years while the females can live up to 30 years!
African Giant Millipedes are found in tropical and subtropical Africa. They inhabit the leaf litter and rotting wood in the underbrush. These millipedes are one of the largest millipedes in the world and can grow up to 12 inches long! They have a hard exoskeleton which they use to defend themselves by curling into a tight ball. Millipedes have 2 pairs of legs per body segment but typically have on average 100 legs. Their job is to recycle the dead and decaying matter on the forest floors and turn it into dirt. Without millipedes there would be excess rotting plant material lying around the forest floors.
Thorny devil stick bugs are found primarily in Australia, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. These crazy looking creatures possess the ability to camouflage resembling bark or rotten wood. As frightening as they look they are actually strictly herbivores feeding on leaves and flowers. Even though they only eat plant material they are heavily armored with sharp body spines to protect themselves from predators. The males also have an extra thorn on their back legs. The legs of these creepy creatures are actually used for fish hooks in parts of New Guinea. Stick insects are also one of the most common pets in the world today. There are over 3000 species of stick insects in the world with many of them being susceptible to habitat destruction, pesticide use and collection for the pet trade.
If you want to meet some of these creepy creatures up close they will be making appearances this weekend at ZooBoo throughout the zoo.