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Thom Benson 423-785-3007


Another Four-eyed Turtle Hatches at the Tennessee Aquarium
Birth Viewed as Hopeful Note for Critically Endangered Species

Beal turtle

Chattanooga, Tenn. (August 20, 2008) – One individual animal birth is a milestone whenever a species is on the brink of extinction, so having two births of an endangered species in back to back seasons is a significant achievement. Last year, the Tennessee Aquarium announced a North American first when a Beal’s four-eyed turtle, Sacalia bealei, hatched. Now Aquarium biologists are celebrating another baby Beal’s turtle. “Having a second hatchling is great news.

I think it’s a really strong next step as we try to build a backlog of experience with this critically endangered species,” said Dave Collins, the Tennessee Aquarium’s curator of forests.

Only 21 of these turtles are known to exist in public zoos and aquariums throughout the United States and Europe. The newest hatchling is the Tennessee Aquarium’s seventh. The only other Beal’s four-eyed turtle on record in the United States is at the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, California. The remaining thirteen on record are housed in European zoos. With more than 500 turtles representing 70 species, the Tennessee Aquarium exhibits more turtles than any other public facility in the United States and is renowned for turtle conservation research.

“What we have learned about breeding turtles we have done with a relatively high diversity of species and a relatively small number of individuals,” said Collins.

The Beal’s four-eyed turtle gets its name from the ocelli or false eye markings on the back of the turtle’s head. These turtles were once common throughout southern China, but have seen significant declines in their population in recent years due to over collection for food and traditional medicine trade. Therefore, adding even a single individual to the captive population helps ensure this species does not become extinct. “Breeding turtles is a very slow and steady process, but I think we are onto something. The overall survival of the species may be helped by our efforts at the Tennessee Aquarium and we are willing to share this information with others working with these animals for the long term,” Collins said.

The Beal’s four-eyed turtle is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of endangered species and some experts believe this species could become extinct in the wild within the next 20 years. Collins admits there’s still more to learn about these particular animals, but he is hopeful that with a helping hand from the Aquarium and other experts worldwide the species will survive. “These youngsters may add more individuals to the captive population three to five years from now. In the meantime, we continue to add to our knowledge and experience as we attempt to bring more of these animals into the world.”

Last year’s Beal’s hatchling can be seen in the Tennessee Aquarium’s “Rivers of the World” gallery located on the second level of the River Journey building. The Aquarium’s newest turtle will be housed off exhibit to minimize stress and encourage feeding.               

The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $19.95 per adult and $12.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $8.50 per adult and $6.00 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $25.95 for adults and $17.95 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

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