What has 16 paws, eight hooves and three beaks?
The answer can be found at Athens, Georgia’s Bear Hollow Zoo, and it’s not a fantastic beast. It’s a coloring book featuring some of the zoo’s most notable residents.
From Rose and Rocky, the deer, to Yonah and Athena, Athens’ favorite bears, this first-of-its-kind “Bear Hollow Coloring Book” brings together some of the zoo’s most charismatic wildlife ambassadors.
The zoo is located at Athens-Clarke County’s Memorial Park and serves as a home for injured or orphaned wildlife that cannot survive in the wild. The Bear Hollow Wildlife Trail offers a wide range of educational programming that features animals like Eeyore, a great horned owl that is blind in one eye and can't fly because of a wing injury.
A fundraiser for the zoo, 16-year-old Georgia 4-H’er and zoo volunteer Lavendar Harris compiled the coloring book from individual coloring sheets that she created for school groups and families who visit the zoo. Harris is a home-schooled student and Newton County, Georgia, 4-H Club member. The coloring book is the keystone of her Georgia 4-H Leadership in Action project.
“She has realized what an impact the wildlife at Bear Hollow (Zoo) can have on students who visit with school groups or with their families, (students) who might not have the chance to see animals in the wild or spend time in nature,” said Newton County University of Georgia Cooperative Extension 4-H agent Terri Fullerton.
Georgia 4-H’s Leadership in Action program recognizes 4-H’ers who identify needs in their communities, then plan and conduct a service project, activity or awareness program that they believe will meet those needs. Leadership in Action participants are the driving forces behind their service projects and are ultimately responsible for them. Local Extension staff and fellow 4-H members provide support. Students across Georgia can participate in the Leadership in Action program through their local 4-H clubs.
At the zoo, Harris said, the need was twofold: There’s always a need for funds to take care of the animals, and there’s always a need to support the zoo’s educational mission. The coloring book helps on both counts.
“When people visit the zoo and see the animals, they can purchase a coloring book of the exact animals they saw in the zoo,” Harris said. “A lot of zoos sell generic coloring books, but I wanted to make this one personalized and special.”
“You can tell a lot of these drawings are portraits,” said Zoo Coordinator Clinton Murphy.
Harris started working at Bear Hollow Zoo when she was 14 years old in order to learn more about wildlife biology as a profession. She wants to preserve North American wolf populations after she graduates from college. Bear Hollow Zoo is the closest place to her home where she could gain experience working with wildlife and wildlife education.
Like all volunteers, Harris started with very basic responsibilities, but she quickly became one of the zoo’s most indispensable volunteers.
“We don’t just throw you the keys to the gator pen and give you an owl,” Murphy joked. “We have a very graduated training system … Lavendar really excelled, and she took her responsibilities very seriously. She’s an amazing young woman and very dedicated.”
Today, Harris leads tours of the zoo; introduces young people to the snakes, lizards and turtles in the reptile house; and is responsible for taking care of the enclosures for the zoo’s deer, turkey and bobcat.
Harris’ involvement hasn’t solely benefitted the zoo’s animals and visitors. It’s also been eye-opening for the rest of her 4-H club, according to Fullerton.
“It has really inspired a lot of kids to think outside of Covington, (Georgia), in terms of how they can have impact,” Fullerton said.
The coloring book, which is now for sale for $8, is available at Bear Hollow Zoo’s gift shop. All proceeds go to support the care of the animals.
Harris hopes to start a dual-enrollment program this spring at Georgia State University, where she plans to study biology.
For more information about Bear Hollow Zoo, visit athensclarkecounty.com/2757/Bear-Hollow-Zoo. For more information about Georgia 4-H and the Leadership in Action program, visit georgia4H.org or call 1-800-ASK-UGA1 to find a local 4-H club.