Are you considering a turtle or tortoise for your next pet? Our Proper Pet Care series can help you make your decision! Our zookeepers broke down a few considerations a prospective pet owner should make before choosing a species of turtle or tortoise. These animals are a well loved bunch, but caring for one of them can be deceptively difficult. In the video below, zookeepers Geordi and Patrick discuss a few things potential turtle or tortoise owners ought to know before purchasing a pet like this.
Size, habitat, and lifespan
Many species of turtle commonly sold in pet stores actually require complex care. Red-eared sliders are a great example of this. When a person buys a red-eared slider, they typically don’t realize that these turtles can grow to have a foot long carapace, or shell length. A turtle this size requires a very large tank with a good filtration system. Turtles in general are very messy animals to care for. They prefer to be solitary, and some males will even fight to the death if they are placed in a tank together.
Furthermore, turtles and tortoises live very long lives. The red-eared slider can live to be about 25-30 years old. That’s a huge commitment for a pet, especially one that needs special equipment and care.
Diet is a crucial part of keeping turtles and tortoises healthy. They require a variety of specialized pellets, greens, insects, and fruit. Each species of turtle or tortoise requires its own particular diet, so a lot of research is required before purchasing an animal like this.
The consequences of improper care can be enormous for a turtle or tortoise. For tortoises, pyramiding on the shell becomes a problem when their habitat lacks the humidity they require in their formative years. For both turtles and tortoises, metabolic bone disease (MBD), or the softening of the bone, is the result of too little sunlight or calcium in their diet.
Is a turtle or tortoise right for me?
Only you can decide whether or not one of these animals is right for you. If you have done extensive research on your specific breed, and you are ready to make the time commitment and the financial commitment, a turtle or tortoise can be very a rewarding pet to keep. A beginner-friendly turtle to start with is the painted turtle, which we have created a care sheet for here.
We hope you have found this information helpful! Always remember to do your own research on the specific species of animal you’d like to own as a pet. An understanding of your pet’s specific needs is the best way to keep them healthy and safe.
April 22, 2018 marked our very first Birds of Prey Day! In case you missed it, watch the video below to see some of the highlights from our inaugural event, including a golden eagle flight and a few words from master falconers Patrick Miller and Michael Kuriga. After the video, scroll down for a recap of noteworthy Birds of Prey Day happenings!
Master falconer Michael Kuriga gave four talks about these magnificent birds. He had two beautiful goshawks with him, Aurora and Norbert. Michael had so many fascinating stories to share about birds of prey. He even let Aurora perch on our zookeeper, Rachel!
After each of Michael’s talks, master falconer Patrick Miller of ZooAmerica performed flight demonstrations with Bliss the golden eagle. Bliss is one of many birds of prey that Patrick is responsible for at ZooAmerica.
After the flight, Patrick allowed everyone to ask questions and get a closer look at Bliss. Here, you can see a young girl named Clara showing Bliss her “wingspan.” To Clara’s surprise, Bliss reciprocated by showing off her wingspan!
Our own great horned owl, Darwin, had a big day too! Usually he isn’t on exhibit, but works closely with our zookeepers for special events and shows. Before Birds of Prey Day, he had never been around so many people at once! But with zookeeper Rachel around to reassure him, Darwin handled it like a pro!
Darwin sat on his perch and visited with everyone for the entire day. He even happily posed for lots of pictures with people at the zoo!
A huge thank you to master falconers Michael Kuriga and Patrick Miller for sharing their knowledge and their birds with us! We couldn’t be happier with the turnout at our first Birds of Prey Day!
Happy International Turtle & Tortoise Week!
In honor of International Turtle and Tortoise Week, we wanted to show off all the wonderful species of turtles and tortoises we have here at the zoo. What’s the difference between the two? The main thing that distinguishes a turtle from a tortoise is that turtles live in water at least some of the time while tortoises live on land. Read on to learn more about the species we have here!
Alligator Snapping Turtle
Alligator snappers are among the heaviest freshwater turtles in the world, weighing an average of 45 lbs. These powerful animals can bite through the handle of a broom! You can find ours in the exhibit gallery.
Eastern box turtle
Even though Eastern box turtles are turtles, they spend most of their lives on land. This turtle has a very high human-induced mortality rate, so it is actually illegal to catch them from the wild and keep them as pets. See our box turtles in the outdoor pond exhibit!
Florida softshell turtle
The Florida softshell turtle is a freshwater turtle with a long neck and a snorkel-like nose. The females get considerably larger than the males—females weigh an average of 15 lbs, while males only average about 6 lbs. You can find ours in the exhibit gallery, but you may need to look closely—sometimes they burrow under the pebbles!
Mata mata turtle
The mata mata turtle is an aquatic turtle that prefers shallow, stagnant or slow-moving bodies of water. Mata mata turtles cannot chew due to the structure of their mouths, so they suction feed. You can find ours in the exhibit gallery!
Painted turtles are a freshwater turtle native to the United States. Four U.S. states have actually named the painted turtle their state reptile! Find our painted turtles basking in the sun in the outdoor pond exhibit on warm days.
Pond slider turtle
The pond slider turtle is a common semi-aquatic turtle with a few different subspecies. These turtles are extremely popular in the pet trade, but conservationists warn against pet owners releasing them into the wild since they are an invasive species. Find our many rescued pond slider turtles in the outdoor pond exhibit!
The snake-necked turtle is named for its long, flexible neck. Our particular species of snake-necked turtle, chelodina mccordi, is one of the most sought-after turtles in the exotic pet trade. Because of this, they are critically endangered. Ours are swimming in the exhibit gallery!
Wood turtles are a North American species of turtle that can be found near shallow, clear streams of water. Humans and other animals pose a significant threat to the wood turtle at all stages of its life. If unharmed, these turtles can live for 40 years in the wild and up to 58 in captivity. You can see ours in the outdoor pond exhibit!
Aldabra tortoises are one of the largest species of tortoise in the world, similar in size to the Galapagos tortoise! You can find our fully grown Aldabra tortoises, Al and Henry, in the Island Giants building. We even have a few young Aldabras who have not reached their full size yet in our exhibit gallery!
The forest tortoise is the sixth-largest species of tortoise on earth. These tortoises have a unique sound—they can make a noise that sounds like a baby cooing with a raspy voice. You can find ours hanging out with the iguanas in the exhibit gallery!
Indian star tortoise
The Indian star tortoise is an endangered species of tortoise due to its popularity in the exotic pet trade. The unique shape of their shell assists them in righting themselves when they get turned over. You can find ours in the exhibit gallery!
We hope you enjoyed learning more about our turtles and tortoises. Help us celebrate International Turtle and Tortoise Week by visiting them here at the zoo!
Our first ever Birds of Prey Day event is this Sunday, April 22. Coincidentally, this year also happens to be the Year of the Bird! The Audubon Society and National Geographic, along with over 50 other partners, have declared 2018 the Year of the Bird in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). This landmark legislation has saved millions of birds, but is now in danger of losing its ability to protect them. Read on to learn more about this vitally important conservation law!
What is the MBTA?
In 1918, U.S. Congress created the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as part of a treaty with Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada). The two countries agreed to stop all hunting of migratory birds that are beneficial or harmless to man. The treaty existed because several species of bird were hunted to the point of near extinction. Eventually the U.S. signed similar treaties with Mexico, Japan, and Russia. Over time, the law has evolved to include almost every species of bird native to the United States. Now, the law also covers incidental bird deaths caused by industries such as wind farms, oil and gas companies, and electricity companies. Before, industries like these had been responsible for millions of easily preventable bird deaths every year. As a result of the MBTA, many companies now work with wildlife programs and conservation groups to develop simple, cost-effective ways to limit incidental deaths.
Why is it important?
The MBTA has already saved many birds from extinction. Notable examples include the Snowy Egret, the Bald Eagle, and the Sandhill Crane. All of these species were brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to the protections put in place by the MBTA. However, as new technologies and industries develop, birds face new threats to their well-being. Open oil pits, wind turbines, and cell phone towers are just a few of the modern challenges birds encounter. The implementation of the MBTA must continue to evolve to protect birds from these hazards. Currently, a bill is circulating in Congress that if passed, would no longer hold industries accountable for incidental bird deaths. In short, this bill would effectively take the teeth out of the MBTA, putting birds at risk. In order to continue protecting them, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act must be properly enforced and supported. You can find more information here.
Even though we don’t participate in any bird-specific conservation programs (although we do have three species of birds here), wildlife conservation is very important to us here at the zoo; our very own great horned owl, Darwin, is a rescue! As such, we’re very excited to show him off during our Birds of Prey Day event so that we can bring attention to conservation efforts for all animals.
We’re hosting our first ever Birds of Prey Day on April 22, 2018! And while birds and reptiles and are in fact closely related (see how here), we’re relying on the experts to share information on these fascinating creatures! Read on to learn about Master falconers and our special guests for this fun and educational event.
What does it take to become a Master falconer?
Recently added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity, falconry is the ancient art of hunting with birds of prey. For those who practice it, it is more than a mere hobby—it’s a way of life. Becoming a falconer is no small feat.
If someone is interested in becoming a falconer, first, they must find a General or Master falconer willing to sponsor them. Then, they must train as an Apprentice for two years. When they have finished their apprenticeship, they are able to become a General falconer. After at least five years of being a General falconer, they are finally eligible to become a Master falconer. Throughout this seven year journey, they must pass rigorous exams and maintain strict regulations regarding the care of their birds.
Those who become Master falconers are truly dedicated to birds of prey. We are lucky to have not just one, but two of these experts joining us for Birds of Prey Day! Learn more about our Master falconers, Michael Kuriga and Patrick Miller.
Meet the Masters
For close to forty years, Master falconer Michael W. Kuriga has been training and hunting with a variety of raptors. Practicing the ancient art of falconry has been his passion that has taken him all over the world in pursuit of this noble art form. Michael has lectured to thousands of people throughout the United States and has given talks in the United Kingdom, and The Czech Republic. During his presentation, he will share some of his many adventures concerning Eagles and hawks. He will discuss their ecology, physiology, the current raptor he is handling, and the birds that he has flown. He will also tell stories of the many interesting individuals that share his love of raptors.
Patrick Miller of ZooAmerica
Patrick Miller is currently a Senior Education Specialist in the ZooAmerica education department and a PA licensed Master falconer. He has been with ZooAmerica for over 13 years. His main responsibility is caring for their education collection, which consists of over 70 different animals. He travels all over the state to give talks on various topics, such as: endangered species, native PA wildlife, birds of prey, and more. He has presented at The Hershey Falconry Experience for the past 9 years. Aside from the Falconry Experience, he oversees the husbandry of all raptors used for that program. He is currently the President of The Pennsylvania Falconry and Hawk Trust where he has served on its board for over 4 years. Raptors have completely taken over his life. He loves everything about these amazing creatures and what they are capable of.
See them in action at Birds of Prey Day!
Come see these Master falconers and their birds in person on April 22, 2018! To learn more about this exciting event and purchase tickets, click here.
Happy first day of spring!
Spring marks a time of new beginnings, and there’s no better beginning than welcoming a baby animal into the world! So to celebrate this season of new beginnings (and all the spring babies to come), we’re sharing all of the zoo babies we’ve welcomed over the past year!
Henkel’s leaf-tailed geckos
Through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Reptiland is part of a Species Survival Plan for many vulnerable and endangered animals. One of these, Henkel’s leaf-tailed geckos, are found on the island of Madagascar. Due to loss of habitat and collection for the pet trade, these geckos are listed as Appendix II by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which means they need to be protected or they could end up on the endangered list. We’re excited to announce that we recently hatched 13 of these beautiful geckos!
Amazon milk frogs
Our Amazon milk frogs sure kept us busy. We had more than 200 tadpoles hatch over the past year! In the wild, eggs are laid in areas like tree hollows. The male will call a female over to lay her eggs which he will then fertilize. Once the tadpoles hatch, they need a food source, so the male will continue to call females over to the tree hollow to lay eggs. He won’t fertilize these clutches and instead will let his tadpoles eat them.
Poison dart frogs
We have many species of poison dart frogs on display at the zoo – the one pictured below is the phantasmal dart frog. Even though they’re less than an inch long, they’re by far the loudest of our poison dart frogs! The males call to the females and lead them to a bromeliad plant. The males will guard the fertilized eggs until they’re tadpoles. He will allow them to wiggle their way onto his back and will carry them to the water below. Much like the Amazon milk frogs, we had LOTS of new poison dart frogs this year!
Many species of colorful day geckos live throughout Madagascar. They’re very opportunistic and eat a variety of insects, fruit, nectar, and smaller lizards. We house five species for our traveling exhibit Geckos: Tails to Toepads. Four of them are called jeweled day geckos for their small size and dazzling colors – peacock, lined, gold dust, and neon. The other species is MUCH bigger and is accurately named the giant day gecko.
Crested geckos have become one of the most popular reptile pets over the last two decades. Incredibly, this species was thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered on their native island of New Caledonia in 1994 after a tropical storm! They’re named “crested geckos” due to hair-like structures that form a crest around their head and down their back. They also have them above their eyes which makes it look like they have eyelashes. Like most geckos, they cannot blink and must clean the transparent scale covering their eye with their tongue. We think they’re pretty cute all the time, but no one can deny how cute this tiny gecko is!
Pueblan milk snakes
We had three clutches resulting in 16 baby Pueblan milk snakes this year! Right from the start, they have bright red bands which tell potential predators that they’re dangerous and to leave them alone. Here’s the fun part – milk snakes are completely harmless! They mimic the very deadly coral snake as a defense.
So there you have it: all of the beautiful new additions to the zoo over the past year! Want to see more baby reptiles and amphibians? Check out our Behind-the-Scenes tours for access to Reptiland’s nursery!
After receiving a record-breaking 453 entries, we are excited to announce the 2018 coloring contest results!
Selecting a winner is tough when there are so many great entries to choose from, and this year was no exception. It also gets more difficult as we try to select original designs different from years past. That said, we want to thank everyone who submitted an entry! We appreciate having so many options to choose from, and we know how much time and effort goes into completing them.
Here are the results…
Because we can only choose one winner, we like to recognize additional entrants for their exceptional designs. This year, we would like to congratulate the following on receiving Honorable Mention (listed in no particular order):
- Reagan Boyer
- Marlee Clentimack
- Jack Kinsinger
- Ivy Magargle
- Leah Vest
Great job, guys and gals!
And without further ado, the 2018 Paint the Dino Coloring Contest winner is . . . *drumroll*
Anthony Sherman, age 6!
We love the colors Anthony used in his design, and we think it will look fantastic painted on Euoplocephalus when Dinosaurs Come to Life returns on April 21, 2018! Congratulations, Anthony!
Another HUGE thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s contest. This year we collected the most entries we’ve ever received—for the second year in a row! We could not be more pleased with the turnout. We hope you all enter again next year!
(Oh, and be on the lookout for something special from Clyde Peeling!)