by Mallory Vopal
Carnegie Museum of Natural History houses a living collection of animals that serve as important educational ambassadors in many of our programs. Our Russian tortoise Natasha is part of this collection. She lives in the lobby of the Earth Theater where she is frequently seen watching visitors, climbing up on top of her log “house,” and digging in the coconut substrate in her enclosure. All of this activity causes her to work up an appetite, and the Lifelong Learning staff at the museum are tasked with making sure she gets the best diet possible.
We go shopping for her food about twice a month and buy different types of greens to give her a well varied and nutritious meal. This week, I purchased kale, endive, radicchio, and red leaf lettuce. We prepare her meals for the whole week at once and store them for when we are ready to feed her. Before serving, a little sprinkle of a special reptile calcium supplement is added to make sure she stays healthy and strong. Purple radicchio is her absolute favorite, and she sifts through her food to find it first!
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.