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Museum to showcase Totally Turtles program

Published: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – There’s more to Hercules than his giant shell and slow-and-steady nature.

He can be quite the competitor, too.

The 10-year-old sulcata tortoise at the Midwest Museum of Natural History and his turtle friends are eager to show off their skills as they compete in obstacle courses, races and other games.

“We thought we’d give them a chance to strut their stuff,” said the museum’s director, Molly Trickey.

Hercules is one of six turtles in the museum’s Totally Turtles educational program.

The program will feature the turtles at its inaugural turtle-themed event at 11 a.m. Saturday at the museum, 425 W. State St. in Sycamore.

Trickey said the museum has five different species of turtles which range from aquatic to land-dwelling and carnivorous to herbivorous.

“They definitely have their own personalities,” she said.

One of Hercules’ many traits is his ability to recognize different colors through a clicker-training technique.

“It’s so cool,” said museum staff member Bethany Gilliam. “I always tell everyone that Hercules loves his colors.”

Hercules receives a treat every time he is able to correctly identify a color.

Gilliam said he knows which colors will get him a treat. She said he is familiar with red and blue so far.

“It’s really cool to see in that tiny head, there’s a brain and it’s working and functioning all the time,” she said.

Heather Williams, a museum staff member who will be teaching guests about the turtles, said the idea came from museum visitors’ curiosity about the animals.

“We kept our turtles and tortoises [at the museum] on a daily basis and got a lot of questions about how best to care for them,” she said.

She said this event, which will feature turtle trivia, games and crafts, will help educate people, especially children, on how to care for these unique creatures.

Gilliam said most of the museum’s 20 animals, including the turtles, have been rescued, because many people don’t know how to care for them properly.

She said the event will teach people how to give turtles the attention they need.

Trickey said she is looking forward to the event and feels it will be a great learning experience for children.

“The kids get an opportunity to see how smart these animals really are,” she said.

The event is free with museum admission and open to the public.

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