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‘Shells – Invasion of the Land Animals’ Previews First-Ever Turtle and Tortoise to Go on Exhibit at Aquarium of the Bay

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Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco’s largest aquarium, is previewing two of its newest land-dwelling animals, the Western Pond Turtle and Cherry-head Red-legged Tortoise, during "Shells: Invasion of the Land Animals" on Saturday, March 14, 2009. Led by the Aquarium’s Husbandry and Conservation departments, "Shells" is the fourth in a series of hands-on, interactive events leading up to the April 4, 2009 grand opening of the Aquarium’s new land animal, octopus and jellies exhibits. With the new exhibits under design, the Aquarium is offering half-price admission to residents of all nine Bay Area counties for the entire month of March.

The Western Pond Turtle, Clemmys marmorata, is found as far south as Baja and as far north as Washington. Western pond turtles use both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, but only enjoy consuming meals including plants, insects, larvae and small fish, in the water. The turtle is deemed a species of concern by the California Department of Fish and Game and is endangered in Washington, due to human development as well as invasive species such as the Red Eared Slider turtle, the most common turtle species kept as a pet. The Red Eared Slider grows quickly in size, which too often can prompt owners to release the animals to nearby ponds and streams. Unfortunately for the Western Pond Turtle, Red Eared Sliders are more aggressive and can take over the animal’s food supply and basking areas.

The Cherry-head Red-legged Tortoise, Geochelone carbonaria, is found in South America and several Caribbean islands, and lives in a wide range of temperatures and habitats ranging from drier forest areas, grasslands and rainforest belts. The major difference between turtles and tortoises is turtles live in or near water, whereas tortoises are terrestrial. The Cherry-head Red-legged Tortoise enjoys a mostly herbaceous diet of fruits, vines and grasses, with a particular appreciation for yellow and red flowers. The animal can live in excess of 50 years and grows in size up to one foot and 30 pounds. Deforestation and degradation of South American due to human and environmental factors will threaten the vitality of the species if it continues at its present rate.

The "Invasion of the Land Animals" preview series includes live animal presentations and interaction, hands-on activities and more. The events are free with Aquarium admission. The fifth and final event, "Soft and Prickly" featuring the Chinchilla and African Pygmy Hedgehog, will take place on Saturday March 21st.

The Western Pond Turtle and Cherry-head Red-legged Tortoise will be part of PG&E Bay Lab, a unique interactive climate change exhibit sponsored by Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The exhibit features land-dwelling animals as nature’s ambassadors, promoting energy conservation to protect their habitats from the potential impact of climate change.

About Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay is a unique nature center dedicated to creating experiences that inspire conservation of the San Francisco Bay and all marine environments. It is the only aquarium featuring exhibits focused specifically on the rich and diverse aquatic life and distinctive ecosystems of the Bay and its neighboring waters. The Aquarium is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and certified as a Green Business by the city of San Francisco. Additional information is available at aquariumofthebay.com

See Also: Aquarium of the Bay Leaps Forward with New Exhibits; Previews the Pacific Tree Frog and Western Toad
Aquarium of the Bay Wins IAAPA Brass Ring Award for Best-in-Class Website  
Aquarium of the Bay Taps Jon Altemus as Director of Exhibits and Special Projects

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