190809 Wildlife Festival 7

A two-toed sloth is brought out on Friday for children to pet at the Wildlife Animal Festival being held the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum. The festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

FLORENCE — When the kids can't get to the jungle, the next best thing is to bring the jungle to the kids.

This weekend's Wildlife Animal Festival kicked off Friday at the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum.

The Foundation for Animal Rescue and Education in conjunction with Little Ray's Nature Centers will have 26 animal species — reptiles, invertebrates and mammals — on exhibittoday.

Today's programs are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $14 with proceeds going to various wildlife conservation foundations.

Wildlife Educator Cameron McSheffrey spent a portion of Friday morning walking the curious four-foot long "Big Mama," a low-key black throat monitor lizard.

"Our animals have been really well received here," McSheffrey said. "These aren't animals that people get to see every day. Several of them we acquired from people who had them as pets and could no longer care for them."

Program educators cautioned those viewing all the animals, being native to the wild, to "be respectful" and to view them "from a distance."

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