By Sarrah Peters
On Monday, May 23, Noccalula Falls Park celebrated World Turtle Day at its petting zoo.
Children visited to take part in the celebration with local schools and preschools including Noccalula Academy, First Baptist of Glencoe, Etowah Preschool, Hokes Bluff Preschool and more.
The children met Goldie, an African Spurred Tortoise. Goldie was donated to Noccalula Falls in 2010, when she weighed only 3 pounds. Now eight years old, Goldie weighs 65 pounds. She could live to be 125 years old and weigh over 100 pounds. That is not the the largest a turtle can be; leatherback sea turtles can reach 2000 pounds!
The children were also able to pet an Eastern Box Turtle and water dwelling Yellow-bellied and Red-eared Slider Turtles.
Eastern Box Turtles originate from the eastern United States. Box turtles enjoy eating snails, slugs and vegetation.
Red-eared Slider Turtles are native to the south and are usually found in ponds and lakes. They like to eat insects, small fish and some vegetation.
Noccalula Falls provided the children who visited for the World Turtle Day some coloring pages and turtle facts. This is the first year that Noccalula has celebrated Turtle Day, but Noccalula Falls Supervisor Janet Tarrance says that the park hopes to expand the celebration next year.
In 2000, World Turtle Day was created by American Tortoise Rescue in Malibu, California 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.