By Mallory Vopal
On sunny days when the temperature breaks above 65 degrees, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s animal caretakers can frequently be found behind the museum in a small swath of grass that leads to the nearby Schenley Park. Why? To walk our tortoises, of course!
It may seem like it’s just for fun (which it definitely is), but it’s also an activity that serves an important purpose to the tortoises: to provide enrichment. We offer them the opportunity to give their little legs a stretch and catch some fresh air. Even though they are important animal ambassadors for our educational programming, they are first and foremost tortoises. We are committed to giving them as many opportunities as possible to bring out their natural behaviors.
In addition to giving them important mental stimulation, getting some sun is critically important for a tortoise because it helps them produce the vitamin D3, which is instrumental in allowing them to absorb calcium from their diets. Even though we claim we do this all for the tortoises, I must admit that I don’t mind a walk, the fresh air, and sun sometimes, too!
Mallory Vopal is Gallery Experience Manager at Carnegie Museum of Natural History and also manages the Living Collection. Her animal husbandry background includes reptiles, birds, amphibians, mammals, and invertebrates.