Animals overrun Student Center at “RAH Gone Wild”

Casper the Burmese python posing for a closeup. -Photo Editor/Nicole Mingo

A donkey, Burmese python, pig, skunk, chinchilla and many other animals were all present on Rowan’s campus this past Friday.

Thankfully, this creature invasion was intentional, part of Rowan After Hour’s (RAH) “Gone Wild” event.

Sam Josephs, student marketing coordinator for RAH, stressed the educational opportunity of the event.

“We had the idea to bring a lot of animals to Rowan and allow students to learn about these animals in a really safe environment,” Josephs said.

While zoos provide a distant, removed experience with animals, Josephs felt this event was more conducive to fun interaction.

“This event allows students to have a really great time, pet some animals they might not see usually at any zoo, and get up close and personal with these animals,” he said. “We think it’s really educational for people to learn about them, but it’s also a really great time for our students.”

On the Student Center back patio, a pen containing a variety of animals was open for students to enter.

Handler Steve Gold travels around with his organization, Happy Trails, to bring his petting zoo from a farm out to schools and organizations.

In Gold’s pen, various species interacted peacefully with one another and curious students…

Except the ducks, according to senior electrical and computer engineering major Alex Dillman.

“The ducks are pretty violent,” Dillman said. “This one guy just doesn’t like me at all. But the bunnies are absolutely adorable, and they’re so fluffy and full of love.”

Luckily, ducks do not have any teeth, so students who managed to rile up the ducks remained unharmed.

In the Student Center Pit, another animal exhibition was set up.

Mark Szafran, whose private collection of animals is based in Chicago, ventured to Rowan and brought the mini-sized zoo along with him.

One of the stars of the collection was a 12 foot long Burmese python named Casper. A handler was available to help willing students drape the snake across their shoulders for the thrill of it, pictures or both.

The experience brought sophomore secondary education major Samantha Palumbo back to her childhood.

“Being able to actually hold the snake was a lot of fun,” Palumbo said. “My school used to have this entire animal, forest-themed day and this guy would bring snakes. It reminded me of being twelve years old, being able to hold snakes, so it was a lot of fun to remember that and to get to hold a giant snake.”

Another animal available for students to hold was Sylvester the skunk.

While most people retreated in fright at the mere mention of a skunk, freshman public relations major Melanie Yabroudy saw the feared mammal differently.

“Everyone is always so scared of skunks, but that skunk just wanted to hug me so much,” Yabroudy said. “He went up one shoulder and then the other one. He wanted so much love from me. Skunks are so misunderstood.”

The real, living animals weren’t the only ones for students to see throughout the night. A Build-A-Bear Workshop-style station was available, and the line stretched far back through the Student Center. A frog, monkey, tiger and duck were all available to be stuffed.

Students were also able to take home their own miniature plants, as well as decorate wreaths. For the midnight food bar, both vegan and regular hot dogs were on the menu.

By exposing students to a wide variety of animals, “RAH Gone Wild” was able to balance excitement and learning for an exotic evening of fun.   

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