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Wellington Zoo Turtles on a Mission

Media Release
16 May 2005

Turtle Power! Wellington Zoo Turtles on a Mission

Three glassy-eyed, Snake-necked Turtles have left Wellington Zoo after 20 years to begin their new life at New Zealand’s National Aquarium in Napier.

Australian natives, the Turtles – 2 females and one of unknown sex - were born in 1986, however it is not known where the Turtles were born.

Wellington Zoo Herpetologist, Laurent Van Ham describes the reptiles as “Small turtles with hard black shells. They grow to between 20 and 30cm long and have a long snake like neck that they poke out. Their cutest attributes are their eyes; they’ve got little round glassy eyes”.

Although the Turtles were off display at Wellington Zoo, they did live outside at one stage in a pool outside the Blackbuck enclosure. However, with their natural tendency to travel, the Turtles were often found in other enclosures in the Zoo before it was deemed unsafe that they travel in such a fashion due to the threat of entering larger mammal enclosures.

“In the wild, these turtles naturally travel to other waterways. We used to find them in other ponds throughout the Zoo, so we moved them to an off display enclosure to keep them safe” says Laurent.

In order to maintain their temperature during the travel to Napier, the Turtles were transported together in a specialised dark polystyrene box.

Since their arrival at the National Aquarium, the Turtles have been quarantined and will remain in quarantine for one month before they are relocated to their new enclosure.

National Aquarium Manager, Rob Yarrall says “Eventually the Turtles will be going in with our population of six Turtles of which there are some males, so they may breed, however we are not embarking on a purpose designed breeding programme at this stage”.

Natives to Australia, the Snake-necked Turtle is a common pet reptile just like the South American Redneck Sliders which are considered a pest throughout the world and are a banned species in New Zealand.

Wellington Zoo Chief Operating Officer, Mauritz Basson says “Redneck Sliders adapt easily to new environments and if they got into the waterways here they would take over and wipe out New Zealand’s native fish”.

Snake-neck Turtles are not endangered in the wild and, like the Redneck Sliders, also eat fish. However, in captivity, these reptiles devour an additional diet of Ox heart, slugs, worms and insects.

“Our Turtles are used to being hand fed; they used to reach out when I came in to feed them” says Laurent.

“I really like the Turtles, so I’m going to visit them in a few months in Napier and catch up with my old mates”.

The National Aquarium and Wellington Zoo have a history of working together where earlier in the year, eight African Clawed-Toads made an exciting entrance to the Zoo when a Police car escorted Laurent and the Toads after bad weather closed roads.

The Turtles will move back to the Zoo when a new enclosure has been developed as part of the Zoo’s plans to redevelop itself.


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