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If You Care, Leave It There

April 10, 2013
By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo
box turtle


The real title of this blog is “Why Is There a Turtle in a Sour Cream Container on Our Education Table?”  That title is a bit too long for my blog space, but it is the question of the day.  There are many questions of the day that are similar.  Questions like:  “Who left the bird in the shoebox in the conference room?  “Who put the spider in a juice cup on my desk? “Where did the baby possum go that was in the box under my desk?”

These are questions that staff in zoos and nature centers are familiar with because of the nature of our work.  We love animals and people in general love animals so they think all these animals need to be “rescued”.  We become the place that baby animals (or just any animal out walking about and minding his business until he is picked up by a human) get deposited to.  Sadly, this is not the correct thing to do.

The little turtle sitting in a sour cream container is a box turtle.  It was found by a youth volunteer near his garage and brought to us to save.  He did not need saving.  Collecting box turtles for pets can cause eradication of a species, however moving and releasing turtles can also contribute to the fall of a species.  If we pick up a turtle to move him to safety we may be moving germs from us to him and then when we release that turtle in a new space he will pass those germs to the wild population where it was released.

Box turtles also have a wonderful homing instinct that cause it to search for its home.  If taken more than a half mile from its home it will fruitlessly search for its home.  This can last a few years and bring it to harm’s way in the process.   They don’t make new friends like we imagine.  They wish they were where they started.

It’s spring.  A great time of year and lots of young animals are out there.  Remember this motto:  If you care, leave it there.

We are going to take this turtle back to where he was taken from so he will have a happy ending and hopefully a long, long life.

Mailing address: Audubon Nature Institute 6500 Magazine St. New Orleans, LA 70118
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