Photos by Connor Burnard / Senior Multimedia Reporter
On Saturday afternoon, a celebration of World Turtle Day was hosted at Barfield Crescent Park by Outdoor Murfreesboro, the outdoor programs division of Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation.
The festivities were intended to inform citizens of Rutherford County about the ecosystem they live in and to specifically address problems facing the local population of box turtles, as the species, Terrapene carolina, is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as threatened with a conservation status of “vulnerable.” The event also gave the public a chance to see the interesting animals up close and learn about them.
Activities at the event included a variety of games for children, presentations about turtles, readings of children’s books about turtles and the display of an assortment of turtles and other reptiles, such as Sully the sulcata tortoise and Sunshine the albino Burmese python.
Rachel Singer, the recreation superintendent for Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation and the program coordinator at the Barfield Crescent Park Wilderness Station, said that the event began as a way to help the local box turtles, and the public’s enjoyment of seeing and learning about turtles caused the event to grow every year. Hundreds of people were in attendance of the free outdoor event this year.
“We started this nine years ago for turtle education and it has really blossomed. People love turtles in general,” Singer said. “The education aspect of it is teaching people what the best thing is for the turtles. Different species need different things from us, but it’s all a conservation message that we need to get out there
“I’m always amazed at how the community comes out for this event and how so many people will say, ‘I love turtles. I want to learn more about turtles,’” Singer said. “The main reason that we started it was to help our box turtle population. They’re declining, and a lot of people were bringing us box turtles trying to ‘save’ them, and so we started this education campaign to teach people.”
Brendan Reynolds, a reptile owner known as the “Reptile Guy” who displays his pets in educational presentations at public events, brought many of his reptiles, like Mr. Freckles, a red-tailed boa constrictor, and Mel, a bearded dragon. He said the educational presentations are great for the public.
“World Turtle day is an awareness thing, just to help people learn about turtles and tortoises and the do’s and don’ts. As of June 21 of last year, it’s now legal to own turtles in Tennessee, which it had not been for a long time,” Reynolds said. “Do they make a good pet? Do you really want to own one? Education is the key to any kind of pet. We want people to be informed on what it takes to take care of them.”
The event also featured a presentation by Victoria Lay, a former MTSU student who graduated in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She presented her final Honors College thesis, entitled “Behavioral and Physiological Responses to Simulated Predator-Induced Stress in the Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina carolina.” The presentation detailed research she completed while at MTSU about the reactions of box turtles to stimuli.
The event will likely be held again next spring at Barfield Crescent Park to continue to inform the public and celebrate World Turtle Day.
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