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Posts tagged ‘reptiles’

It’s World Turtle Day!

The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders. ―Edward Abbey

Gaaa! Today — May 23, 2013 — is the 13 annual World Turtle Day! This special day was created to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world.

I love our turtles and tortoises…. I grew up with the giant South Pacific sea turtles (MAGNIFICENT), and now, I always have towels in my car for the sole purpose of transporting wayward turtles on our Florida roads (especially during nesting season, poor babies). If you encounter and relocate one, remember to *always* move them to safety in the direction he / she’s heading. Wildlife needs every tiny bit of help we can offer. More from the Mother Nature Network, in honor of this day celebrating these wonderful guys:

“The earliest turtles evolved up to 300 million years ago, branching off from a group of reptiles more closely related to crocodiles and birds than to lizards and snakes. Lots of turtle species have come and gone since then, including some spectacular ones like the car-sized “coal turtle” or the Koopa-like Meiolania damelipi. But today’s turtles face an unusually widespread danger, with about half of Earth’s 328 known species listed as threatened or endangered with extinction. They’re largely under siege from humans, yet unlike King Koopa, they didn’t bring this on themselves….”

Red-bellied Turtle, Flamingo Gardens, Florida

A Red-bellied turtle finds sanctuary at Flamingo Gardens

Florida Cooter (Turtle) in the Florida Wetlands

A Florida Cooter safely surveys his domain in the wetlands

Visiting with an Ancient Tortoise at Flamingo Gardens, Florida

Visiting with an ancient tortoise at the Flamingo Gardens wildlife rehabilitation center and sanctuary, last year… I would have climbed in for cuddles, if possible.

Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Juno Beach, Florida

A rescued sea turtle in rehabilitation at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach

And finally, one of my favorite guys: The always gentle and shy Gopher tortoise! I’m always trying to catch a glimpse of these sweethearts, and have written a few times in this blog about their essential role to our ecology, and the need for their continued protection.

Gopher (Burrowing) Tortoise, Savannas Preserve State Park

Trying my best not to frighten a Gopher (Burrowing) tortoise in the Savannas Preserve State Park

Read more about World Turtle Day, and protecting turtles and tortoises here
and here:

at Mother Nature Network, and at the

Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida, and at

World Wildlife Foundation, and at

Nature artist / writer Denise Dahn’s blog, learn about Gopher tortoises, and finally at


A Saintly Lizard

“It’s a Jesus Lizard.”

“Eh? Come again?”

That was many years ago, when I saw my first lizard walking on water. It’s the common name for the basilisk lizard genus, known for its unique ability to walk and run, as a biped, across water. Basilisks are native to the tropical rain forests of southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, meaning they’re non-indigenous to Florida. To date, the furthest north they’ve been spotted is Ft. Pierce. Part of the iguana family, basilisks can reach 2 feet in length, including their long tail. The high crests on the males’ heads and backs are used to impress females.

On water, basilisks can run on their hind limbs at about 5 feet per second for approximately 15 feet, before sinking to all fours and swimming. I’ve often seen them running across solid surfaces as well however, and this National Geographic article describes the complicated mechanics of the basilisk lizard’s movements. During times of danger, basilisks will swim at fast speeds, using their crests as rudders. They also burrow in the sand — a ring of muscles around both nostrils prevents grains of sand from entering the nose. Since being introduced to Florida, and a slightly cooler environment, they’ve taken to burrowing in the leafy undergrowth (something I commonly witness).

Although they’re not huge — big enough to notice, for sure — they definitely have a prehistoric air to them. I call them Little Godzillas whenever I see them on our hikes. And their name helps this primeval aura…. BASILISK. I hope they can stay safe in their selected home; they’ve chosen an area which is now home to no less than three alligator nests — slightly larger reptiles.

Basilisk Lizard (Jesus Lizard) in the Florida Wetlands

Basilisk Lizard (Jesus Lizard) in the Florida Wetlands

Basilisk Lizard (Jesus Lizard) in the Florida Wetlands: Hello, FACE!

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