We introduce retirement home residents to our very unusual animal ambassadors, bringing the animal world to their world. The oldest person we have met was 107 years of age and she was delighted to stroke Lionel the raccoon, and tickle Vincent the tortoise under his chin.

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Getting hands on and up close to invertebrates, reptiles, mammals and birds brings so much stimulation and enjoyment to the elderly people we meet, touching a snake for the first time, recalling stories of rabbit hunting with ferrets during the war days, laughing as the millipede’s legs tickle their hands, having a barn owl fly to them, or just seeing an animal they have only ever seen on television from the comfort of their beds or armchair, are priceless experiences.

We have seen tears of joy and heard excited laughter from residents, and gasps of surprise from staff and visiting family who are astounded at how well residents react to the creatures’ visits.

We have visited about 90 retirement homes since we started four years ago, and the word is spreading about how much nursing and dementia home residents enjoy scaly, furry, feathery and creepy crawly visitors too!

More info: thecreatureteachers.co.uk

Flying a barn owl

Every resident gets the opportunity to have Echo the barn owl fly to them. It doesn’t matter if they are bed bound, or don’t have the use of their hands, we always find a way for those who want to try.

Tickling a tortoise

Coming face to face with a raccoon

Last year we hand reared a brother and sister pair of raccoons, Lionel and Marilyn. They are now a year old and demonstrate their amazing dexterity in our encounters, and enjoy many back rubs from the residents too.

“How many legs does it have dear?”

Meeting a giant millipede.

“I’ve never touched a snake before”

Kyuss, the corn snake, meets a resident

“I’ve never seen snails this big before, are you sure they’re real?”

Sheldon and Michelle have some growing to do, but this lady was impressed.

“They really aren’t sharp spikes at all”

Quentin, the bearded dragon, almost had us all fooled.

Gili, the kookaburra about to bash his rubber snake for his audience

Kookaburra’s daze their venomous snake prey by bashing them on hard surfaces, our kookaburra demonstrates this with a rubber snake.