By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
On Tuesday, May 23, Noccalula Falls Park celebrated World Turtle Day at its petting zoo. This is the second year Noccalula has hosted the event.
Students from local schools visited to take part in the celebration.
Children were introduced to Goldie, an African Spurred Tortoise. Donated in 2010, Goldie weighed only 3 pounds when she arrived at Noccalula Falls. Now eight years old, Goldie weighs 65 pounds. She could live to be 125 years old and weigh up to 300 pounds. Some species of turtles can be even larger than that. For example, leatherback sea turtles can reach 2000 pounds!
Several other turtle species were on hand. Jacksonville State Marine Biology student Taylor Prickett shared information on Common Snapping Turtles, Spiny Softshell Turtles, Yellow-Bellied Sliders, Eastern Mud Turtles and more. Petting Zoo Manager Cindy Hester also showed off another reptile, a five month old American alligator.
Noccalula Falls provided the children who visited for the World Turtle Day some coloring pages and turtle facts. Children also got “turtle food,” or watermelon, to try.
The children also received information on how to move turtles from roads safely. If you see a turtle in the road, help them get across the road in the direction they are traveling. Use both hands to lift turtles from the end of their shells. Make sure to keep your hands away from their faces, and never lift turtles by their tails, as that can damage its vertabrae.
American Tortoise Rescue in Malibu, California created World Turtle Day in 2000 to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson founded the American Tortoise Rescue. Since its start in 1990, the non-profit agency has rescued and relocated about 3,000 tortoises and turtles to caring homes.
“We launched World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures,” said Tellem in a press release. “These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade. It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world.”
World Turtle Day has grown from its humble beginnings in California to be recognized worldwide.
“We are thrilled to learn that organizations and individuals throughout the world now are observing World Turtle Day, including those in Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the UK and many other countries,” said Tellem in a press release.