More from Myrtle the Turtle
MRB: How long have you been weighing her?
SFC: We started weighing her in 2008. We were always guesstimating and the funny thing is we were always so close. People were saying anywhere from 450 to 550 pounds, and just by understanding her body mass and size, that’s where we were coming up with that figure. And before we first weighed her, we actually had a contest to see who could guess the closest. But that’s what she weighs now and what we’re trying to do is keep her weight down. If you look at her, she’s a little…I like to call her “big–boned.” But this is not what a green sea turtle should look like. She should definitely be a little bit trimmer. And it’s difficult when you have an animal in captivity, they tend to be fed and in some cases, this is a good thing — in most cases, it’s a good thing — they tend to be fed very well. But there’s always this line that you try not to cross which is making sure that they’re fed well and getting all the nutrients they want without going overboard and having them gain weight. A sea turtle in the wild would travel thousands of miles from her breeding ground to her feeding ground every couple of years, so they’re much more active and they don’t tend to get as much food as they would in captivity.
MRB: I’ve actually seen sea turtles while snorkeling and they’re always going for that little bit of grassy area, but they’re not herbivores, right?
SFC: Green sea turtles are considered omnivores, and I think a lot of people think of them as herbivores, because their primary diet is grasses and algae, depending on where they’re from. But they’re also getting a lot of protein in terms of invertebrates, so it’s a mistake for institutions to restrict them to a vegetation diet; in the wild, they do need the protein. The trick to keeping Myrtle’s weight down is trying to give her the least amount of protein as possible, and keep her satiated with greens. The nice thing is, the animals that eat marine vegetation will readily accept the same sorts of produce that we buy at the markets, so she’s getting Brussels sprouts and broccoli, carrots, red peppers, lettuce…and we let her have as much of that within reason.
MRB: I’ve heard that you go to Haymarket and get crates of produce for her…
SFC: We used to, but now we have a really good vendor that delivers for the café downstairs, and they love that they feed Myrtle and deliver for Myrtle too. So she gets two cases of food a week — that’s just for her. Two cases of produce and it’s just a variety of stuff.
MRB: What weight are you trying to get her down to?
SFC: I want to avoid saying “trying to get her down”…because to be honest here, I just think that she’s at a point in her life, where I don’t think we’re going to get her lower than 500 pounds. That would be great. I would be happy with that. But I think there’s another issue at play too, and it’s a quality of life. Sometimes, you want to make sure the animal is happy and vibrant and enjoying their life. I don’t want to humanize her too much, but I want to make sure her quality of life is good too. That’s got to carry some weight, as well as her health. Like I said before, it’s just a challenge, trying to give her the amount of food to keep her satiated and happy, but not go overboard.
MRB: What’s her favorite food?