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Which is best freshwater turtles in mixed species exhibits ? or as standalone exhibits ?

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Onychorhynchus coronatus, 16 Dec 2020.

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Which exhibit design is best to maximize conservation education with freshwater turtles?

  1. Mixed-species (crocodillians, fish, other reptiles etc)

    4 vote(s)
    16.7%
  2. standalone exhibit (just turtles)

    1 vote(s)
    4.2%
  3. Both are useful

    19 vote(s)
    79.2%
  1. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Freshwater turtles are an incredibly threatened group of vertebrates for many reasons and are therefore kept ex-situ by many zoos for captive breeding / insurance populations.

    However, in zoos these reptiles are often kept in mixed species exhibits with other taxa which some might argue makes turtles more a side-show and detracts from truly showcasing the species and getting the conservation / education message across to visitors.

    Does mixing endangered freshwater turtles with other taxa (crocodilians, fish, lizards etc) work from an educational display point of view or does it detract from it ?

    Is it better for freshwater turtles to be displayed / showcased in zoos as standalone exhibits for educational and conservation reasons?

    Perhaps it is dependent on the context or zoo and both designs / setups can work to raise the conservation profile of these species ?

    This is both a poll and a discussion thread where we can discuss this issue and I'm very interested in hearing peoples opinions on this subject.
     
    Last edited: 16 Dec 2020
  2. Tetzoo Quizzer

    Tetzoo Quizzer Well-Known Member

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    I would say it depends on the species and situation; for the most threatened, if they must be displayed then I would suggest in such a way as to promote and underline the crucial role of captive breeding. For some other species, a display with species from the same habitat could allow more ecological messages to be delivered.
     
  3. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for your comment @Tetzoo Quizzer

    Yes, I would say it is dependent on the context too.

    For example, with freshwater turtles that are not so endangered I don't see any problem with these being added to exhibits / enclosures with crocodilians or fish or other reptiles.

    As long as these are roughly biogeographic mixes of species which occur within the same habitat or region. This I think works much better in terms of education regarding freshwater ecosystems of the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia etc.

    There are some pictures in the gallery of zoos where African mud or Chinese pond turtles are kept with Philippine sailfin lizards, Malaysian painted turtles kept with Australian freshwater crocodiles, alligator snapping turtles with Chinese alligators.

    I don't think the examples I mentioned above do very much at all in educational terms at all frankly and it seems obvious to me that the turtles are just an afterthought or some added decoration for the enclosure.
     
    Last edited: 16 Dec 2020
  4. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    I think that if it is a critically endangered turtle species like for example the Roti island snake necked turtle or the Malayasian painted turtle then these species should be given their own exhibit and the role that zoos are playing in their ex-situ or indeed in-situ conservation showcased.

    I don't think it does any service to genuine conservation education regarding these species to simply house them in mixed-species exhibits alongside crocodilians which will invariably get far more attention from the visitor (even though they are comparatively far less active than the turtles).

    These are the most threatened vertebrate group after primates and I really believe that zoos need to be doing more to raise their conservation profile and generate greater public awareness.
     
    Last edited: 16 Dec 2020
  5. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    I learned that turtles are often stressed by other turtles and other animals, easily catch parasites, and need carefully chosen temperature and environment. Figuring the right one may be difficult for animals which don't express emotions. So at least some turtle species should be kept alone, and probably in particular social system. Generally, needs of the species would dictate how the exhibit would look like. Of course, hardy turtle species will often land in shared exhibits to save space and make habitat exhibits.

    Otherwise, it is possible to make educational exhibits both shared and only for turtles.
     
  6. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Which turtle species in particular that you mention are stressed in mixed-species exhibits ?
     
  7. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member

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    I think there is value to turtles in both settings, although I think it is more beneficial to house them in mixed species exhibits, so that zoos can use space better. I know a lot of turtles can be mixed with crocodilians, caiman lizard, fish, free-flying birds, and more.
     
  8. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Yes, but what if it is a species of conservation concern that would be better housed on its own due to being easily stressed and / or to promote captive breeding ?
     
  9. red river hog

    red river hog Well-Known Member

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    Again, I'll bring up the National Aquarium, but I think it's a good example. They hatched two Vulnerable Big-headed Amazon River Turtles (Peltocephalus dumerilianus) this year. They're mixed with Redtail Catfish, Giant Talking Catfish, Pseudacanthicus leopardus, Lyre-tail Pleco, Smooth-fronted Caiman, Arrau Turtle, Yellow-spotted River Turtle, Xingu River Ray, Pirapitinga, Ripsaw Catfish, Uaru, Rummy-nose Tetra, Royal Panaque, Splash Tetra, Colombian Tetra, and Pterophyllum sp.
     
  10. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Good point, that is quite a mixed-species exhibit indeed.

    Do you feel the mix detracts or enhances the conservation education message regarding this species in particular ?
     
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  11. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    My own opinion on the species mixed in this exhibit (despite not having seen it) would be that it sounds of conservation education value because all of the species you have mentioned are either Amazonian or South American.

    With an exhibit like that it is far easier to justify the mix not just because the turtles actually have a track record of breeding in it but also because these species are all from the same biogeographic region so it gives an impression of Amazonian aquatic ecosystems and fauna.

    So it works in terms of husbandry and of education which is great and means it has conservation output on two fronts in both captive breeding and educating the public.
     
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  12. dinosauria

    dinosauria Well-Known Member

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    Something I think would be neat is if the turtles are the stars of a tank but not the only inhabitants. Like a turtle in a tank stocked with appropriately fast fish to add a little spice to it (they would need to be quick enough to avoid the turtle though)
     
  13. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Yes, that could definitely be a good idea and especially if from the same biogeographic region.

    However, I do think that there is a strong argument for freshwater turtles being kept on their own as standalone exhibits and particularly the critically endangered species.
     
  14. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    I will just say that many of the programs would be unsustainable without mixing species, especially non-breeding animals. Zoos often don’t have much space for freshwater turtles, despite the large number of species at threat and in managed programs. Below I have linked the regional collection plan for turtles in AZA zoos.

    https://ams.aza.org/iweb/upload/DRAFT30DayReview_ChelonianTAGRCP2016-28f42a54.pdf
     
  15. Greenshank

    Greenshank Well-Known Member

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    If by redtail catfish you mean Phractocephalus hemiolopterus or the Amazon redtail catfish that is a very risky mix indeed as that catfish can grow to over 4 feet long and is an out and out predator which can take surprisingly large fishes. I don't know whether small turtles would be at risk but I imagine it would certainly try if it could fit them in its mouth.
    In general I feel that turtles and crocodilians is generally a good mix as there doesn't seem to be much risk of predation (though that obviously depends on the species and size of the animals concerned) and as crocodilians are rather inactive the turtles often end up stealing the show. I really enjoy the false gharial/painted terrapin/giant Borneo river turtle mix at Chester Zoo which also includes small fish like tiger barbs, scissortails etc.
     
  16. red river hog

    red river hog Well-Known Member

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    There are multiple enclosures in the area, so maybe small turtles aren't put in the same one as the catfish?
     
  17. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Yes, but this is kind of my point , shouldn't there be space available for freshwater turtles without mixed-species exhibits and shouldn't the animals being kept be breeding animals for captive breeding purposes ?

    Shouldn't both the space and the animals themselves be being put to the fullest possible use in conserving the species ex-situ ?
     
    Last edited: 18 Dec 2020
  18. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Turtles do often steal the show due to being more active and I've often observed this in mixed crocodilian / turtle exhibits.

    Sounds like an interesting mix at Chester and biogeographically accurate too.
     
  19. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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  20. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member

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    I think you are overestimating stress in turtles. If you look at the AZA Chelodian TAG link above, not a single turtle species is said to have a hard time in mixed exhibits, and a lot are said to do better in mixed exhibits. I don't think a lot of the high conservation concern species of turtle necessarily make good Exhibit animals on their own, so would personally prefer zoos and conservation facilities to work with them either behind the scenes or in mixed species Exhibits, saving the limited amount of space for Exhibits to more engaging animals.