Visitors at Brit Spaugh Zoo in Great Bend can get a good look at turtles and tortoises in their new exhibit area – and the turtles like it, too. The tortoise pen is located next to the new playground area, which is next to the reptile house.
There are two species of tortoises at the zoo: A sulcata tortoise and a red-footed tortoise, Zookeeper John Zimmerman said. The sulcata (Geochelone sulcata) is also known at the African spur thigh tortoise or African spurred tortoise. They can be found in Africa, while red-footed tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonaria) are from South America.
The exhibit also houses a couple of Eastern Box turtles, which are a North American species but not native to Kansas, Zimmerman said. Two species of box turtles are found in the United States. Kansas designated the Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata) as the official state reptile in 1986. The Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) is the only “land turtle” found in North Carolina and is also the state reptile.
Both of the tortoises are young, Zimmerman said, and will grow to be much larger than they are now.
All of the reptiles eat fruit and vegetables, but while the sulcata is strictly a vegetarian, Zimmerman said the red-footed tortoise and the box turtles will also eat meal worms, crickets and even mice.
• In other zoo news: The green tree python (Morelia viridis) is now on display at the reptile house. Although its skin will be emerald green when it matures, the young snake is bright yellow with dark spots. The species is found in New Guinea, islands in Indonesia, and Cape York Peninsula in Australia.