Endangered Turtles Raised at Berkshire Museum to be Released into the Wild
Pittsfield – Ten northern red-bellied cooters, an endangered species of turtle, raised at the Berkshire Museum over the winter will soon return to the wild. The Museum returned the turtles to the Mass Wildlife headquarters in Westborough today; they will be released into their natural habitat in the towns of Plymouth and Palmer over the next few weeks.
The turtles were brought to the Museum’s aquarium as hatchlings in October 2004 as part of a “Head Start” program in partnership with the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife. Interns from Miss Hall’s School aided Berkshire Museum aquarist Scott Jervas in caring for the hatchling turtles over the winter.
“By providing a warm, predator-free environment and a constant supply of food, we gives the hatchling red-bellied cooters a head start in life that is critical to the efforts to restore this endangered species,” said Jervas.
The northern red-bellied cooter (rubriventis bangsi) is found only in southeastern Massachusetts, mostly in Plymouth and Carver. The second largest freshwater turtle in the state, adult red-bellied turtles weigh as much as ten pounds. However, when they are newly hatched, the turtles weigh only five to eight grams and are only 1.25 inches long, making them easy prey for birds, fish, and bullfrogs. The young turtles sometimes freeze to death if an early fall keeps them in the nest and the winter is harsh.
At the Berkshire Museum, the hatchling turtles are weighed and measured weekly, and observed for signs of stress. They are kept in a 125-gallon stock tank at a temperature between 82 and 86 degrees farenheit. The cooters receive a constant—and large—supply of Romaine and red-leaf lettuce while in captivity.
Sophomores Cat Bunker, Beth Anne Degiorgis, and Kasey Cocivera of Miss Hall’s School were this year’s interns in the turtle program. The students work in the aquarium three hours each week throughout the school year, performing a variety of task. The turtle program is also highlighted in the Berkshire Museum’s many educational programs for a variety of age groups. A closed-circuit monitor allows visitors to the Aquarium to watch the red-bellied cooters in their temporary home. The weekly program for young children, “Aquarium Adventures,” features the turtles, as does the new “Junior Naturalists” program.
To preserve the red-bellied cooter population, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Section started the head start program in 1985. Though still on the endangered species list, the population of red-bellied cooters has seen documented increases since the onset of the head start program. The Berkshire Museum was one of the first participants and has the highest success rate. Adult turtles raised as hatchlings at the museum have been located in the wild, and the aquarium has seen its second generation of cooters—caring for the young of a female who had overwintered at the Museum.
The Berkshire Museum is located at 39 South Street on Route 7 in Downtown Pittsfield. It is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays noon to 5 p.m. For more information, contact the Berkshire Museum at (413) 499-7171, or visit berkshiremuseum.org .
Kolkata tortoise, Clive's pet, dies at 250 years Thu Mar 23, 9:00 AM ET
A giant aldabra tortoise thought to be around 250 years old has died in the Kolkata zoo of liver failure, authorities said on Thursday.
The tortoise had been the pet of Robert Clive, the famous British military officer in colonial India around the middle of the 18th century, a local minister in West Bengal state said.
Local authorities say the tortoise, named "Addwaitya" meaning the "The One and Only" in Bengali, was the oldest tortoise in the world but they have not presented scientific proof to back up their claim.
"Historical records show he was a pet of British general Robert Clive of the East India Company and had spent several years in his sprawling estate before he was brought to the zoo about 130 years ago," West Bengal Forest Minister Jogesh Barman said.
"We have documents to prove that he was more than 150 years old, but we have pieced together other evidence like statements from authentic sources and it seems that he is more than 250 years old," he said.
The minister said details about Addwaitya's early life showed that British sailors had brought him from the Seychelles islands and presented him to Clive, who was rising fast in the East India Company's military hierarchy.
On Thursday, the tortoise's enclosure wore a deserted look.
"This is a sad day for us. We will miss him very much," a zoo keeper said.
Wild Aldabra tortoises are found in the Aldabra island in the Indian Ocean Seychelles islands. They average about 120 kg. It is believed that tortoises are the longest lived of all animals, with life spans often surpassing 100 years.
Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited
Kolkata tortoise, Clive's pet, dies at 250 years
Thu Mar 23, 9:00 AM ET
THE ANIMAL, CALLED TU'IMALILA, DIED AT THE ROYAL PALACE GROUND IN THE TONGAN CAPITAL OF NUKU, ALOFA.
THE PEOPLE OF TONGA REGARDED THE ANIMAL AS A CHIEF AND SPECIAL KEEPERS WERE APPOINTED TO LOOK AFTER IT. IT WAS BLINDED IN A BUSH FIRE A FEW YEARS AGO.
TONGA RADIO SAID TU'IMALILA'S CARCASS WOULD BE SENT TO THE AUCKLAND MUSEUM IN NEW ZEALAND.