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Wednesday April 23, 2014
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Tiny Tots Time at Leslie

 

continued

Here, in the Critter House, we hit the jackpot. Various habitat scenes adorn the walls: woodland forests, aquatic marshes, and tropical rain forests. The children are fascinated by the critters. I am, too, actually: huge cockroaches and other arthropods (animals that have no bones, only exoskeletons — see what I learned?), a large iguana, box and snapping turtles, salamanders, frogs, chameleons, domesticated rabbits, nesting doves with an egg, and many more. But the undeniable star of the show is a six-year-old, thirty-pound African tortoise named Tortuga.

When we come in, Tortuga is trying to climb out of her box. Eric, the program coordinator, explains that she's very social and does this whenever there are people in the building. He lets her out. Gabriel stands back a bit, wary of this ancient being. She puts on quite a show. Tortuga makes a line drive toward the door at a surprisingly fast pace. Eric hauls her back in a few times, but she keeps at it. He shuts the door. She nudges it open.

Finally he tosses lettuce on the floor. This works. Eric gives some to the kids, and Tortuga follows them, gulping down the lettuce. She appears utterly unconcerned about the fifteen humans standing in the room. I imagine her making a successful break, quietly cruising unnoticed down the path. Perhaps on our next hike we will see her smiling face just below the surface of Black Pond.

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