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Chuck Alberding has a passion for animals that started when he was a kid, and as an adult, he hopes to encourage the same wonder for animals in today’s children by using educational programs.

“I go into schools, we read a book about a certain animal, and we watch a video I shot and produced myself about that animal,” he said. “Then I bring the actual animal out.”

His company, The Wildlife Geeks, is designed for children in pre-kindergarten to sixth grade, and Alberding calls on several years of experience as an animal educator when doing presentations. He started his career working with the Arthropod Zoo at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, North Carolina, before moving to such organizations as the Tiger Rescue in Mebane, North Carolina, and the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens in Sanford, Florida.

When he moved to the Upstate, Alberding brought several rescued wildlife with him. As owner of Wildlife Geeks, he now uses those live animals and videos to teach children in private and public schools about wildlife and conservation.

In order to reach more children, he’s recently decided to make the Wildlife Geeks experience available for private birthday parties, too. For an hour presentation, The Wildlife Geeks charges $140 to bring live animals to parties and present fun, educational shows for birthday guests.

“I know there are people in the area who offer live animal encounters, but no one does what I do,” he said. “Yes, my presentations are fun for the kids, but that’s not my main priority. I concentrate on conservation, and I have a couple of rescue animals I introduce to help kids think differently about animals. If they have a pet cat or dog, they go home, feed and water them, and pet them a little bit. I’m trying to get them to think that an animal isn’t just a pet. It’s an actual being who needs enrichment and relationships.”

Alberding uses animals such as rescued prairie dogs, a rescued opossum, a veiled chameleon, a water dragon, a Pac-Man frog and a ball python in his presentations.

“Prairie dogs — a lot of them have been killed because someone wants to build a mall,” he said. “Hopefully what I do gives kids a different perspective so they don’t see animals as something to dominate or as something that’s just there. My rescued prairie dog Amelia is like my mascot. She’s my baby, and kids really love it when I bring her out.”

While Alberding has worked with Greenville County Schools to bring the Wildlife Geeks program into the area’s schools, he hopes to make private schools, day cares and after-school providers aware that his program exists.

“I do charge, but not much,” he said. “I do this because I love it. If I can reach only one child, it’s worth it.”

Anyone interested in learning more about The Wildlife Geeks experience for a birthday party or school presentation can learn more online at wildlifegeeks.com or by calling 843-592-8079.

Briefly…

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