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Encounters of the wild kind
Traveling zoo brings menagerie to GSU for WinterFest activities
120911 STAPLES SAFARI 03
Animals featured in Staples Safari Zoo pose for photographers at the Georgia Southern Center for Wildlife Education. The outfit from Washington State will have two shows Saturday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

With a police escort, two 45-foot trailers turned the corner on Forest Drive onto the campus of Georgia Southern and pulled into the Center for Wildlife Education. As the truck came to a stop the sounds of monkeys, birds and other animals could be heard through the walls of the trailer.
Brian Staples, the director of Staples Safari in Washington, emerged from the lead truck as his co-workers began unloading the “cargo.”  Before Staples had a chance to introduce himself he was met with by a capuchin monkey that quickly wrapped itself around his neck. Staples put the monkey on the hood of a police car and tossed it a pen so it could draw as he introduced himself to the throng waiting at the Wildlife Center.
The Staples Safari is in town for the center’s annual WinterFest event that begins today at 2 p.m.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3-11, with all children under 3 free. The event includes Staples Safari, a show from “Magic Marc,” a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” Wildlife Center Style, and a visit from Santa.
Staples is bringing his Safari to GSU for the first time and among the numerous animals he brought with with him are a kincachoo, a white tiger, a spider monkey and a fennec fox. All the animals will be on display today and part of his formal show at the Wildlife Center.
Staples said he is a fourth-generation zoologist who handles exotic animals.
“My great grandfather from England trained a lot of animals for the Chipperfield Circus way back when and then my dad and grandfather both here in the United States trained animals for television and film but I am taking it to a different level,” he said. “My whole objective is to get kids excited about our natural world. So if I can get them within a few inches of some of these animals that you would only see in a zoo or on television, then I think we have an opportunity to impact (them).”
Based in the state of Washington, Staples said his troupe and he are on perpetual tour. Calling his home “airport terminals and hotels,” the zoologist said he travels from city to city educating people about the interesting animals he carries with him. 
“We have a wide range of animals that would not fit in to most zoological societies, and the reason being [things] like a camel with a floppy hump and one with an overbite,” he said. “Even though we are very much pro-species survival program, which most zoos are set up for, we are very much set up for animals that don’t fit in to that category. Something with a genetic defect –whether it’s psychological, physiological or sociological. We end up with a lot of rescued animals, some previously pets, and because they have such a strong human imprint they make better ambassadors and display animals than breeding animals.”
Staples said he hopes his show today help educate people first and to entertain second. One of the unique things that Staples said about his animals is they are not trained to perform tricks. 
“They do funny things that’s because that’s who they are and what they do, but its only things they would do in their natural world,” he said. “When we are not touring around the country, I take my crew to hang out where they (the animals) hang out (in their native lands).”
The Staples Safari show will run from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Wildlife Center. However, Staples and his crew will remain around to show the animals to people and speak with anyone attending the event.
“(The show begins) with an educational program,” he said. “I’m going to have my butt kicked by a kangaroo, one of my assistants is going to fall off of a camel, and you will learn a lot of different facts about some really cool animals. The coolest thing is that its going to be focused on bio-diversity and how we can bring all of these animals together, allow them to live in harmony and scratch our heads and wonder why we can’t seem to do it as humans.”
Steve Hein, director of the Wildlife Center, said he has welcomed programs like the Staples Safari in the past.
“We have had opportunities like this before, but it’s been many years and I thought it was high time we bring it back,” Hein said.” Again, we know that we are building an annual tradition, the Wildlife WinterFest, so I think this is something we can build upon in years to come.”
The learning opportunity Staples program offers is what attracted Hein to bring him in for WinterFest.
“I think what Brian does and why he is so commendable is because he and all four generations of his family are devoted to environmental education. While it may be deemed a zoo, he [Staples] will be the first to tell you it’s about education, and that’s what the Wildlife Center here at Georgia Southern stands for,” said Staples.
WinterFest is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3-11 with all children under 3 free. The event will include Staples Safari, a magic show from Magic Marc, a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” Wildlife Center Style, and a visit from Santa.
For more information or advance ticket purchase call (912) 478-0831.

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