Get aboard Nonie’s Ark for a wildlife adventure

January 12, 2013

Nonie MMaines of Nonie’s Ark entertains children as Cullen Scally holds a turtle during his birthday party. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Local wildlife educator makes learning about wildlife a fun event

Nonie Maines has loved wildlife as long as she can remember. Growing up in South Florida, Nonie’s step-father would bring home unwanted or abandoned exotic pets while working as a pool installer. Nonie and her mother would nurse the critters back to health and raise them.

Learning about animal husbandry along the way, Nonie went on to get a summer job at the animal nursery at Busch Gardens right out of high school. Her career has been wrapped around animal care and education ever since.

Nonie’s love for animals is what inspired her to create Nonie’s Ark animal encounter parties, geared for children ages 5-11.

Nonie calls herself an “edutainer,” part educator, part entertainer. With more than 30 animals in her repertoire, Nonie educates children about wildlife and the risks involved in  owning exotic pets. Children interact with the animals as Nonie explains the animal’s biology. Wildlife included in her shows may include a tarantula, turtle, snake, frog, parrot and a hissing cockroach.

Nonie hopes to educate adults as well by dispelling preconceived fears some have of snakes and spiders.

Nonie cringes when she hears people say, “the only good snake is a dead snake.”

“Kids are easy to teach, I worry about the way many adults perceive animals, especially reptiles,” Nonie said.

Nonies presents her animals in a one-hour show for birthday parties, classrooms and civic organizations. She also offers a 2-hour “hostess package” providing invitations, cake, decorations, games, prizes, bug boxes and hats for each child.

In addition to hosting parties, Nonie offers Florida wildlife programs and scavenger hunt type hikes during the day and evening hours.

To learn more about Nonie’s Ark, go to