About Them: Alabama Red-Bellied Turtles or Cooters a word derived from “kuta” the word for turtle in Bambara and Malinké the language of enslaved people brought to the south east. These are really beautiful turtles. They start out tiny with red shell bellies and intricately patterned top shells. They reach about a foot long when grown, the females a little larger. They take 4 to 6 years to reach maturity and have clutches of 4 to 9 babies.
Their plight: They live in a very limited habitat making them highly susceptible to human interference. The river delta they live in is dredged disturbing their food source and possibly harming the turtles. They are sought out and taken from the wild as pets. They are prey animals meaning many animals rely on them as a food source. As their population weakens this is a tax they can’t handle. They are often hit by cars trying to cross roads that split the path between different waterways.
What we should consider: When purchasing an exotic pet do the research to make sure you are getting that pet from a reputable captive breeder and not the wild. Avoid purchasing endangered species as pets. There are other red-bellied cooters available make sure it is one that is safe to own.
Nesting locations are in sandy soil that is on land. With river play or exploration it could be very easy to disturb the nest. At one time I’m sure there weren’t enough people causing these disruptions to cause much effect on the population of turtles. Now, there are a lot humans, we are able to spend more time playing and exploring, therefore, are more likely to cause damage to wildlife. It is another complicated balance humans have to reach, we want to explore and enjoy nature, but we ourselves are disruptive even without big machines.
What is being done: The first step of being on the Endangered Species List is a good start. It provides funding to engage actions that protect the turtles. A fence was installed along along Battleship Parkway that helped keep turtles from crossing it as they exited the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and Mobile Bay. It brought down roadway turtle deaths by 80%.
How to help: Continue bringing awareness. Be a thoughtful participant while on any river walk or wilderness hike. Call into state senators when legislation is being passed that could affect the continued support of policy that protects wildlife and waterways. Support locally.
Support can be:
- donating to science groups
- helping to ensure funding to the organizations that creating breeding programs
- being a citizen scientist through
- land restoration project
- trash clean ups
- species counts
- bio blitzes
- getting people you know excited about how incredible our planet’s biodiversity is.
Joining your local Audubon Society or other local conservation group is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.
Further Reading, my sources:
[This is a blog of my opinions. I speak for myself. I am a one person team and if I have misinterpreted a fact or made an error please feel free to get in touch to correct me. I will make edits and updates to post. I would appreciate corrections to be polite. I will not engage in hate.]