St. Louis area school students study the health of box turtles

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ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – To understand the flow and Eddie and ebb and flow of every box turtle in the state of Missouri, students have been studying their health and movement.

'We mark every turtle we meet,' says Sharon Dean, Director St. Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine. 'So not all of them have those nifty telemetry devices but if we meet a turtle we do little notches. It's like filing your nail on what are called the marginal scoots here.'

This is the third year the St. Louis Zoo has been taking citizen scientists out to track box turtles to understand their habitat and why their numbers are declining.

'Whether it's people. who collect them to eat them or the pet trade or being hit by cars,' says Dean, 'They have a lot of things that are coming at them so the number of turtles are decreasing across species.'

Smokey, a brown eyed three toed box turtle, lives at the Children's Zoo. Three toed box turtles that show up in backyards and backwoods are the state reptile for Missouri.

'They can close their shell and pull their head in and all their little limbs and become a great box shell and it's because of this great hinge they have here,' says Dean.

Monday evening more than 200 grade school students will track soft plush box turtles to better understand their ecosystem.

'We'll have some of those plush turtles that have those telemetry devices so the kids will take their parents out and track them which we'll have hidden at the zoo,' says Dean.

They'll be using radio telemetry technology to help the state reptile of Missouri.