With National Gopher Tortoise Day around the corner, the Andalusia Public Library children’s program brought in two special guests Friday.
Charlotte Petre taught the children all there is to know about different turtles and tortoises. She also taught the differences between the two.
“Turtles like to live in water,” Petre said. “As opposed to tortoises that live on land.”
Petre talked about the burrows that the gopher tortoises make and what can be found in them.
“There are several things that make their homes in gopher tortoise burrows,” Petre said. “Black pine snakes, eastern diamond back rattlesnakes, gopher crickets, gopher mice and gopher frogs as well. And they all coexist with each other.”
Along with this lesson, Emily Brooks, the children’s program director, had an arts and crafts project for the children.
They meticulously worked on their own gopher tortoise burrow made out of construction paper and a paper bag, and decorated around the burrow with different types of things found in that habitat.
The second special guest that came to the program was a red foot tortoise named “Dude.” He belongs to Library Director Karin Taylor.
“My daughter bought me him for Christmas this year and he has been a real joy,” Taylor said. “I absolutely love animals and I always told myself that when I grew up I would either work at a zoo or be a librarian.”
Red foot tortoises come from South America, so the humid, rainforest type climate that is in south Alabama is a great place for the tortoise.
“I think that bringing Dude here today was important to the kids,” Taylor said. “Children have so much curiosity, but they are only seeing things online these days. I think it is very important to immerse these kids in hands on activities like this so they can see what is out there, not just what is on a screen.”
The Andalusia Public Library also rents telescopes and microscopes for hands-on activities.
“Another thing we do is rent bird watching kits,” Taylor said. “It comes with everything they need and a log book so they can write down which birds they see. I honestly think technology is a great thing for kids, of course, but it is always nice to get back to the basics.”