Ever stood just metres away from a dinosaur, watching as it opens its mouth and prepares to gobble you up?
Not many of us could answer ‘yes’, but a group of our local schoolchildren can after attending a special performance by the internationally acclaimed ERTH Dinosaur Petting Zoo at Lumen Christi Catholic College, Pambula on Tuesday.
Children from Towamba and Merimbula public schools joined Lumen Christi students for all the fun, education and excitement of the show, which was part of a south-east NSW tour presented by South East Arts.
Large-scale and eerily lifelike dinosaur puppets were brought to life through sophisticated design and electronics, along with the help of talented puppeteers Jacinda Patty and Kailah Cabanas.
Five species made an appearance on the day, including baby Dryosaurs, Meganeura, Leaellynasaura, the apex predator Australovenator, and the largest dinosaur ever discovered in Australia, the Titanosaur.
Towamba Public School student James Zalakos was one of those lucky enough to come face-to-face with a dinosaur, when he was called upon to help feed Australovenator some ‘cow guts’.
Show host Graeme Rhodes says the performance is a unique form of education for the students.
“We’re educating the kids about distinctly Australian dinosaurs, and that’s something that I don’t know that anyone else has done,” he said.
“We present a lot of information, and we feel like the kids are taking all of it in, so hopefully they’ll go away and read up about it and learn a little bit more.
“What else is really satisfying is just scaring children,” he joked.
ERTH executive director Sharon Kerr says the dinosaur petting zoo gives children a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
She says her work is just as rewarding now as it was in the beginning, even after tours of the US, UK, Dubai and Hong Kong, and highlights that include performing to a crowd of over 1000 people at the Ten Days on the Island festival in Tasmania.
“It’s really different to a film, for example, where you’ve got that degree of separation,” Ms Kerr said.
“This is a tangible experience where they get to experience the real fear of a large predator, and that’s something they’ll never get in their life.
“I thought these kids handled it very well; you always have a mix where some kids are absolutely frightened witless, and others are laughing their heads off and having a good time.
“Then you’ve got the adults laughing at the kids being scared, which is part of the fun and entertainment too.”
South East Arts regional development officer Andrew Gray was thrilled to have ERTH visit the south-east region, and said the local tour of Moruya, Tathra, Bega, Pambula and Cooma is a fantastic coup for the area.
“It’s an opportunity for regionally based children to experience an interactive, educational and unique performance and connect to the real science of palaeontology,” Mr Gray said.
“They can watch wide-eyed from a safe distance or dare to get right up close to these awesome prehistoric creatures, from cute baby dinos to some of the largest carnivores and herbivores that have ever walked the planet.”