Saturday, May 18, 2013

Helping Out

On Friday we joined Arizona Game and Fish, the Phoenix Herpetological Society and the Phoenix Zoo for a bit of community outreach. Eamon, Aine and I helped educate the public about the hazards of non-native turtles and the danger of releasing pet turtles into the zoo ponds. This event was one of the homeschooling programs held by Game and Fish. As volunteers, we passed out stickers to zoo visitors and told them about the traps throughout the entry waters of the zoo. Eamon answered questions from visitors while Aine handled the sticker dispersal.
As part of our volunteer work, the kiddos also were able to process the trapped turtles. During our shift 14 turtles were gathered from the traps. The kiddos helped measure the carapace (upper shell) and plastron (lower shell) with calipers, as well as weigh the turtles. They also helped determine the sex of the turtles. The male turtles have very long nails on their front feet and a longer tail. They needed to know the sex, because all female non-native turtles would be removed permanently from the lagoon waters and taken to the Phoenix Herpetological Society. They would later be adopted to proper homes. Finally the kiddos learned how the remaining male turtles are tagged and identified by the staff. The tagging involved a dremel tool to create small notches along the edge of the turtle's shell.
The final part of our time at the zoo was spent inside the tortoise habitat. A zookeeper led us into the exhibit and told us all about the animals. Each of us was able to scratch the female Galapagos Tortoise. The male tortoise preferred to stay in the small pool of water and watch everyone. The female loved the attention and eagerly came right over for more. Her skin felt both rough and soft at the same time. The kiddos noticed that her neck was very muscular. The kiddos learned the the female continues to lay eggs although she is in her eighties. The nests are often overlooked by the zoo staff and they are sometimes surprised with baby turtles. The kiddos also learned what turtle scat looks like.
I am so glad we have these opportunities available to us. Through these different avenues we are able to learn so much about our world and the environment in which we live.

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