(Photo by John Cook) Animal Magic, Inc. owner and CEO Mark Rosenthal calls Popcorn, a 70-pound binturong, his “best friend.” Here, Popcorn kisses Rosenthal’s forehead during a performance Friday at the Caro American Legion hall.

Sloth, tarantula part of Gingerbread Village animal program

Mark Rosenthal brought several friends to the animal shows he hosted in Caro Friday evening.

One slithered, another hung from a tree branch and one was much larger and hairier than folks around these parts are used to seeing.

One thing they had in common: Each brought a separate, and usually a delightful, response from the audience, most of which were children. Oh, and each of Rosenthal’s friends was not human, with the exception of his co-host and girlfriend Misty Fortner.

Rosenthal, owner and CEO of Animal Magic Inc., of metro Detroit, was in town to host two performances Friday – one at 6:30 p.m. and another at 8 p.m. – as part of the Caro Gingerbread Village Festival.

About 250 people piled into the Caro American Legion hall for the 6:30 show, and about 50 had to stand along the walls to watch the show as all the seats were taken. The event, like all events at the Gingerbread Village, was free.

(Photo by John Cook)
Animal Magic, Inc. owner and CEOMark Rosenthal, and cohost Misty Fortner, hold a conversation with Nico theMacaw Friday during a performance at the Caro American Legion hall, part of theCaro Gingerbread Village Festival.

At the onset of the program, Rosenthal explained to the audience that the most common phobias among humans are the fear of snakes and spiders. The host then brought out a large, black, hairy tarantula. The arachnid was larger than Rosenthal’s hand, received mixed expressions from the audience, especially the folks in the front row, who received an up-close look at the spider.

But as part of the show, Rosenthal educates attendees about his animals. Tarantulas, he said, are not the monsters many believe them to be. In fact, “Nobody has ever died of a tarantula bite,” he said. Rosenthal even stated that a tarantula makes an excellent pet.

“We have so many animals, we rescue animals, we work with zoos… I’m an exotic animal educator/entertainer – I try to educate people in an entertaining way,” Rosenthal said. “Once you leave, you’ve learned something without even knowing it.”

After a brief performance with a milk snake, Rosenthal reached into an animal carrier and delighted the audience with a green – and chatty – macaw. Prior to his appearance, Nico the Macaw – a 26-year-old bird that had been rescued recently after his owner passed away – could be heard throughout the hall talking, laughing and even crying. Of course, Nico was just mimicking the speech he had previously heard.

(Photo by John Cook)
Mark Rosenthal shows off Seven thesloth to a packed crowd Friday at the Caro American Legion Hall. Rosenthal,owner and CEO of Animal Magic, Inc., touts Seven as the only traveling femalesloth in the U.S.

Two exotic mammals rounded out the 6:30 show. First, Rosenthal introduced Seven the Sloth, a 40-pound, nearly 17-year-old animal native to the tropical rain forests of Central and South Americas. Rosenthal touted Seven as the only traveling female sloth in the United States. Rosenthal displayed Seven with a specially-designed synthetic tree branch, which is fitting since sloths spend their entire lives in trees.

Finally, Rosenthal brought an animal he called his best friend – a 70-pound binturong, also known as a bearcat – named Popcorn.

Binturongs are an endangered species native to south and southeast Asia. Popcorn walked around stage, ate marshmallows and drank Mountain Dew from the bottle. Rosenthal interacted with the animal much like a dog owner would interact with his canine.

The second show was originally set for teenagers and adults, but enough children hadn’t secured a spot in the hall for the first Animal Magic show, so Rosenthal and Fortner performed a second child-oriented show at 8 p.m.

John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at john@tcadvertiser.com.

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