Autumn at the Turtle Survival Center

During most of the year the climate in South Carolina is perfect for the chelonian residents at the Turtle Survival Center (TSC), but during the relatively short winter it can get pretty chilly. Some species must be brought indoors during the winter months. For those that can live outdoors year round, their enclosures are piled high with leaves which the team collects by the truckload. The leaves provide insulation and as they decompose they even give off some warmth! If it is a mild winter, the outdoor species will continue to be active, otherwise they undergo a period of dormancy until the weather warms again. South Carolina is not known for severe weather but for those of you who remember last winter's ice storm, you know anything can happen! 

The weather may be getting cold but that isn't slowing down construction at the TSC. The Cuora Complex continues to move forward with two out of four enclosures nearly completed. To date, 130 tons of sand and dirt have been added to the complex, most of which has been moved by old fashioned shovel and garden hoe. Ground has also been broken on a new facility to house species of the genus Kinixys, commonly known as hinged tortoises. A trench, measuring nearly 300 feet in length, has been dug to install water and power lines for the new area. The new construction will provide electricity to accommodate heaters as well as allowing us to expand our security lighting grid. The next construction phase in the planning process so stay tuned for more construction updates from the TSC.

The TSC recently welcomed a new team member! His name is Axel and he is a 2-year-old Rottweiler mix. Axel was adopted through R.E.A.L. Rottweiler Rescue in Ohio who oversaw his care including heartworm treatment and placement in a foster home. The TSC staff spent months searching for just the right dog to join the team at the Turtle Survival Center. Among other duties, Axel helps deter predatory herons, bullfrogs, raccoons, foxes, and anyone else who might cause harm to the turtles. Daily training of Axel is a responsibility that handlers Sheena and Nate enjoy tremendously. While some personality traits made Axel a little more challenging to place, we know he has found the perfect home as part of our team. Axel is helping to save turtles, as the TSA helped save Axel!

Recently, Director of Animal Management, Cris Hagen attended at the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group's annual conference in Phoenix, Arizona where he gave an oral presentation titled, "The Sulawesi Forest Turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoi): Wild Encounters and Captive Management". Cris has been to Sulawesi, Indonesia seven times since 1998 and has seen first-hand the decline due to over exploitation for the food and pet trades. His presentation focused on the challenges the species face in the wild as well as strategies for maintaining captive populations.

We continue to be overwhelmed by the generosity of our community friends and neighbors, both individual and corporate. Some of the donations received this fall are listed below:

  • Coastal Pet Products donated dog toys and collars.
  • Grizzly Pet Products donated dog treats and dog food supplements.
  • Harry Barker donated dog toys, treats, food and storage bins.
  • Leerburg Training Company donated two dog training videos.
  • Nylabone donated three large dog bones.
  • RePotme donated sphagnum moss, which makes a great substrate for turtle enclosures.
  • Kate Butler donated her own handmade dog toys which she sells on
  • TSC Operations Specialist, Carol Armell and her family have donated numerous plants as well as dog toys.
  • Tom Hernandez donated his time and skills as a track hoe operator and dug more than 400 feet of trenches around the Cuora Complex and new Kinixys Complex

The TSA offers a sincere THANK YOU to these generous supporters who are helping to propel the Center into a world-class turtle conservation facility. If you or your organization would like to make a donation to the Center, please contact Nathan Haislip or Cris Hagen.