Any zoo demo is a fun zoo demo, but of the half-dozen animals I demonstrate routinely, I have my favorites and less-favorites, as do all volunteers. Snakes are the best in my book; salamanders are, well, a lot less active and interactive (and can’t be touched because as amphibians, they absorb substances too easily through their skin). The painted turtle usually falls somewhere in between, but last week he had a stellar outing with a handful of kids who somehow knew how to bond with him.
This is Monet, a male painted turtle. We don’t always let him run loose on this cart, but my fellow volunteer Darlene (who’s attached to that hand) put the sides up, and although the zoo was once again swarming with school groups, most of the kids were behaving well enough and agreeing not to touch him. We’ve demo’d Monet many times before, but I don’t remember this level of mutual fascination between him and his audience.
Painted turtles are common in Minnesota lakes, and my husband says he often swam with them as a boy at his extended family’s summer cabin. My favorite facts to share with kids: the males (like Monet) have smaller bodies but longer claws and tails than the females; they live in wet places and sunbathe on logs to rid themselves of leeches and absorb vitamin D through their shells; their average lifespan is 25 years; the warmer the place where they lay their eggs, the more females will develop and hatch. And of course painted turtles have that pretty orange underside, almost worthy of the painter himself.
I don’t do demos every week, so I was glad to do one on my last day at the zoo before a monthlong hiatus. I won’t be volunteering or blogging for the rest of May, as I finish up a part-time grad-school program, but I’ll be back with a vengeance in June. By then, the zoo will have a summer Africa exhibit (giraffes again, at last!) and another temporary dinosaur exhibit. I can hardly wait to check it all out.