Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Early June brings to NYC one of my favorite herp events, the NY Turtle and Tortoise Society’s (NYTTS) annual show. The word “show”, however, does not due justice to this wonderful event, as you’ll see below.
A NYC Chelonian Tradition
The show is held outdoors, in a schoolyard located in the West Village, one of NYC’s most interesting and vibrant neighborhoods. While members do have a chance to display their turtles and tortoises and compete for trophies, much more goes on as well. The vital, hands-on conservation work of NYTTS, the Wetlands Institute and other local institutions is highlighted and visitors learn how to become involved. Of special value to me is the opportunity I and other turtle keepers have to share what we have learned with one another in person – a refreshing break from emails and such! This year, as always, I made many new contacts and was especially delighted to meet up with old friends that I had not seen in some time.
Urban Turtle Conservation Concerns
This year’s show also jump-started two long-term interests of mine that have lain dormant for the past few years. Some years ago, with the help of NYTTS members and an anonymous donor, I began purchasing Florida Soft-shelled Turtles from food markets in Manhattan’s Chinese community. Lab tests revealed high mercury levels, but for various reasons the data we presented to the FDA did not generate much of a response.
Another concern in the same community is the fact that turtles are released into local waterways by members of certain Buddhist temples. While this religious practice is admirable in theory, it does not work well in NYC. Florida Soft-shells, Red-Eared Sliders and other non-native (an often ill) turtles are purchased from food markets and deposited in the East River (which is a marine body of water) and other unsuitable habitats.
For several years I collected Snapping Turtle Eggs along the Bronx River and gave them to a friend, who is a monk in a local temple. Temple members incubated the eggs and we held a release ceremony each August back at the Bronx River (I once a rescued a monk who fell in and was promised a favorable re-birth, so I benefitted as much as did the turtles!). Unfortunately that program is no longer operating.
With mercury testing and Snapper releases in “hibernation mode”, I was thrilled to meet, at this year’s show, a Buddhist monk who is interested in resurrecting both programs. He has a great deal of influence in Manhattan’s Chinese-Buddhist community and concern for the welfare of turtles, and I look forward to his help and advice.
More on the Show and NYTTS
It was great fun to watch members and visitors interact with the turtles – as you can see from the photos, both adults and kids had a wonderful time. I was also gratified to see that many organizations, including ThatFishPlace/ThatPetPlace, supported NYTTS’ efforts – thanks very much!
Well, I could go on and on…please visit NYTTS’ website to read more and see other photos. Please also consider joining…you can read more about NYTTS’ wonderful work in this article of mine. Members also do fine work on an individual level – Allen Salzberg’s Herp Digest, the only free electronic herp science and conservation newsletter, is a stellar example.
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Thanks, until next time,
Learn more about the work of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society and other turtle interest groups here.
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