Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ali Update

Recently, fans of Al’la’shuk (Ali for short) have noticed some changes in our little western painted turtle. He’s always been an active and curious member of the PSC’s Reptile-Amphibian-Mammal (RAM) Zone. But now Ali is looking more handsome than ever! What’s the difference?

When we acquired Ali two years ago, he had some minor health problems. His shell was misshapen and not shedding properly. The diagnosis from our vet was that our turtle was not getting enough sunshine and vitamin D. At first, adding vitamin D to his diet and a full spectrum light source to his tank started Ali on a healthy course.

Then this summer Animal Care experimented with taking Ali outside for a weekly 20-minute sunbath. At first he appeared agitated by all the city noise. But by the end of the summer, he would calmly lounge on his rock and soak in the rays. Now Ali’s shell color is remarkably improved. When the sun and warmth return to Seattle, we’ll continue the routine.

Another health concern is that we might have spoiled Ali with too much protein in his diet so we’re slowly trying to introduce him back to vegetables. Thanks to the creativity of Animal Caretakers Katie and Maida, we have a new turtle menu. We have found that Ali’s favorite food combinations include sweet potatoes. Combined with shrimp and whitefish cat foods or especially bloodworms, mashed sweet potatoes are frozen into cubes. We have offered him protein combinations with peas but like a small child, he picks out the protein and discards the peas. Natural foods such as water plants are merely playthings for our boy. He takes big bites out of the leaves of water plants, and spits them out again! We hope he gets at least some vegetable matter into him that way.

Caring for animals like Ali teaches us that we must give attention to their very basic needs. Seemingly minor factors such as sunlight and vitamins can have serious long-term effects. With proper care, Ali could live for many decades and he’ll get even more handsome!

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