Monday, September 17, 2012

Turtle Makeover

When Chloe began her internship in Pacific Science Center’s Animal Care department, there was no question: She loved reptiles of any kind, and hoped for a chance to work with them. But no one knew how timely her contribution was about to become, as Ali the turtle’s shell and his cage proved too drab for such a colorful animal.Here's Chloe's story.

You may remember Ali our Western Painted Turtle that we were given in May. Both he and his cage got a makeover.

We received Ali from Pacific Science Center’s Mercer Slough education program several months ago. Ali had been donated to them recently but they had no educational programing for him so they gave him to us! Between moving three times and having many people take care of him, he had some health problems. His shell was faded and not the right shape, so we scheduled a vet appointment for him. After examining the turtle, Dr. Maas started scraping Ali's shell and pieces started coming off onto the floor.

We were alarmed at first, but learned that like all reptiles, turtles shed and Ali hadn’t been shedding his shell. We were sent home with some vitamins that we squirt into his mouth along with his meals, which he surprisingly likes. He is looking a lot better, and has started shedding all by himself!

Ali came to us with a minimal amount of decoration in his cage. His cage had two big rocks, a plastic basking spot, and a few fake plants when we got him. As an Animal Care intern, I was looking for a culminating project towards the end of the summer, and I decided to tackle redesigning Ali's cage. I talked to our vet, did some research, and discussed what I could get with Life Sciences manager, Sarah Moore.

I added a background, a water plant, flat rocks, an extra inch or two of water depth, and a lot of pebbles. Our turtle is like a toddler in that if given the option, he will eat and choke on anything he can put in his mouth, so we had to make sure everything we put in the cage was too big for Ali to eat.

Good thing too because the first 15 minutes Ali spent in his new cage were filled with trying to eat everything in sight.

Western Painted Turtles are endangered or imperiled in parts of their range, because of loss of habit and invasive animals like bullfrogs, and because so many are captured for the pet trade. In other areas, pet turtles released into the wild can spread illnesses to native turtles that already live there. Ali will not be returned to the wild, but we hope to make his habitat as natural feeling as we can.

I hope you come by to see Ali and his new cage!

Chloe, Animal Care Intern

Want to learn more about how you can help protect endangered turtle species? Woodland Park Zoo runs a program designed to protect the even more threatened Western Pond Turtle, which is endangered in all of Washington State. Visit their website to find out how you can help!


  1. Great project, lucky Ali! Best wishes for your future endeavors.

  2. Cool Chloe!
    I bet Ali thanks you.

  3. Great story and nice pictures. Good job Kiddo!