Performing an annual physical on the Aquarium’s largest freshwater turtle requires a group effort. Several members of our animal care team convened in the Delta Swamp recently to do just that.
Aquarium fans know that our massive Alligator Snapping Turtle typically spends his time beneath the surface of the Delta Swamp – often impersonating a small boulder on the bottom. So, the first step for our team was carefully getting him out of the water.
Once on land, the team worked quickly to get the measurements they needed. Final stats show that the turtle currently weighs 165 pounds and is nearly four feet long! Our experts say he continues to be in good health.
While it might be easy to imagine that lifting and keeping a massive, water-loving snapping turtle on land is hard work for our team, the process took less than five minutes. This efficiency keeps the turtle’s stress levels low. And, our team has a good “bedside manner.” They want to ensure the animals remain comfy whenever routine medical procedures, like checkups, are necessary.
“Imagine all of your 165 pounds being above the water with gravity working against you after being ‘weightless’ for so long!” explains Animal Care Specialist Jennifer Wawra.
Fig. 2 Animal care team measuring Alligator Snapping Turtle
Fig. 3 An alligator snapping turtle physical exam
This turtle is estimated to be around 80 years old and has been at the Aquarium since 1992.
In the wild, Alligator Snapping Turtles live in rivers which drain into the Gulf of Mexico. The adults hunt in the deep water of rivers, lakes, swamps, ponds and bayous where plants and algae enhance their camouflage. Best known for an adaptation that allows it to lure fish into its mouth, the alligator snapper is a bottom dweller that surfaces to breathe.