By Mike Kaczmarczik
Last spring one of my coworkers here at the Academy started acting a bit unusual. She didn’t say a word, but we could tell something was going on. Rumors began circulating that she may be pregnant. To be on the safe side, we isolated her in a dry area with a soft floor.Of course, unlike what you would find in most places of business, my coworkers include hawks, snakes, skunks, and many other non-human species. The mother to be, in this case, was a northern diamondback terrapin named Squirtle (we isolate very few of our human employees).
It is not uncommon for female terrapins (of any species) to lay infertile eggs. But Squirtle had been living with another female (Cheerio) and a male (Clem) since 2008. And although nobirds nor bees were involved, we had a hunch the eggs Squirtle buried in a bed of soft coconut fibers may just be viable.
Under the watchful eye of the Academy’s Reptile Keeper, Bar Carter, Squirtle’s eggs were kept in a warm, undisturbed environment. According to the latest scientific research, the incubation period for diamondback terrapin eggs is around 70 days.
On day 71, Clem and Squirtle’s first baby was born. Since no type of terrapin, turtle, or tortoise provides any parental care, the non-terrapin staff of the Academy found far more joy in the new addition than our terrapin colleagues. A few days later two more baby diamondbacks sliced through leathery eggshells and took their first look at the world.
The three youngest animal ambassadors were named Skip, CJ (Clem Jr.), and Squirt. All three siblings can currently be seen in Outside In, our recently renovated discovery center for children. To tell them apart, look for a patch of color on their shells. Skip has a pink dot, CJ a red dot, and Squirt a blue dot.
There are few things in this world more adorable than a baby terrapin, so be sure to come visit the three youngsters in Outside In while they are still here. According to the Wetlands Institute, the young terrapins can be released into the wild once they reach two to three inches. This gives them a good chance of survival so that they can create future generations of diamondback terrapins.
Visit Outside In to see the baby terrapins today! Buy tickets now.
Mike Kaczmarczik is outreach coordinator and teacher naturalist in the Academy’s Education Department.