New turtle and tortoise habitats at EAC’s Discovery Park Campus

New turtle and tortoise habitats at EAC’s Discovery Park Campus

SAFFORD — EAC’s Discovery Park Campus was recently honored with two Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout projects.

With help from family and friends, Eagle Scout candidates Riley DeSpain, from Troop #5042, and Brandon Udall, from Troop #5736, each completed a native habitat area for four Western box turtles and two Mojave Desert tortoises housed at the Campus.

The new habitats are a vast improvement to the small area where the reptiles were originally kept. They are now housed in separate areas that cater to each species’ specific needs.
Turtle Habitat Eagle Scout 2015small-3160.jpg

The Discovery Park Campus has long been known as a beautiful example of native habitat and a hub for information and education on science-related topics, including the native Western box turtles and Sonoran/Mojave Desert tortoises on display in the patio area of the Gov Aker Observatory. It is illegal to capture wild turtles and tortoises, and the animals at Discovery Park Campus were not taken from the wild; they are abandoned pets, bred from captive animals or are rescues, and are used to teach the public about these remarkable reptiles.

DeSpain built a habitat area using mortar and bricks and provided cover with artificial dens and existing desert plants for hiding places for the box turtles. The Western or “ornate” box turtle is a small turtle found in local desert areas. The turtles grow to about 6 inches long and usually have bright or dark yellow lines, depending on the turtle’s age, that radiate on their shell. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has developed the “Ornate Box Turtle Watch” so members of the public can report a wild turtle sighting by filling out a form from the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Web site at www.azgfd/turtle.

Brandon Udall

Udall built a secure habitat along the walkway into the Gov Aker Observatory buildings for the two Sonoran/Mojave Desert tortoises. Although closely related to turtles, the tortoises
are cross-bred between the very similar Mojave Desert tortoise found in the northern Arizona and Nevada deserts, and the Sonoran Desert tortoise founTortoise Habitat DeSpain.jpgd in the southern Arizona and northern Mexico deserts. They have a heavy greenish-brown
shell that blends into the surrounding desert landscape. They can grow up to 15 inches in length.

The habitats are open to the public Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Exhibits include the Graham County Historical Society’s display gallery of historical artifacts, the “History of Astronomy” gallery, the PolTurtle Habitat Eagle Scout 2015small-3202.jpgaris shuttle simulator with three new ri
de experiences; a “Tour of the Solar System,” “A wing and a prayer” airplane adventure and “Rat Race!”, a computer graphic, full-motion roller coaster ride with rats.

Visitors are invited to finish off a Saturday evening by observing the fascinating night sky objects through the 20-inch Tinsley telescope in the Gov Aker Observatory. All activities of EAC’s Discovery Park Campus are free of charge.

For more information call 928-428-6260 or e-mail discoverypark@eac.edU.