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New Tortoise Exhibit to Open at Zoo Friday

Photo credit: Springfield-Greene County Park Board
Photo credit: Springfield-Greene County Park Board

Dickerson Park Zoo and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board will officially open the zoo’s new Tortoise Exhibit Building Friday. Zoo staff members plan to incorporate the four giant animals into the actual ribbon cutting ceremony. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.


The zoo houses four Aldabra Tortoises. These giant land creatures weigh anywhere between 250 and 550 pounds each. Since their arrival in 1979 and 1980, the tortoises were only visible to the public during the warmer months. Tortoises are cold-blooded, which forces them to move indoors and off-exhibit during cold weather. The new exhibit will now allow visitors to see the animals year round.

Melina Arnold is the spokeswoman for the zoo. She says this facility has been a goal of the staff for a long time.

“This building is adjacent to the summer yard and it has larger space for them to be indoors in the winter time. But the greatest asset to the building is that there are windows looking into the rooms so that our guests who come from about mid-October to about mid-April will still be able to see the tortoises.”

Arnold estimates that the tortoises are about 50-60 years old.

“It’s not unusual of this particular species of tortoise, along with the Galapagos Tortoises, to live to be 100 years old. One of the greatest challenges in tracking their ages is that they often out live the people who are caring for them and so record keeping becomes a little challenging.”

The building was funded by a voter-approved ¼-cent countywide Parks Sales Tax. That tax was approved in 2006. According to the park board, the building cost about $300,000; it includes two rooms, a pool, and a sandpit built to encourage the females to mate and lay eggs.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will be Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the zoo. Arnold says the tortoises who call the new exhibit home will cut the ribbon.

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.