People say raising a child takes a village. The same could be said for building an environmentally friendly water feature for the radiated tortoises at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens.
Led by Ed Beaulieu, vice president of field research and contractor development at Aquascape®, Inc., landscape pond builders from around the country came to Central Florida to help renovate the tortoise habitat. Six Flags Nursery Supply, a Longwood-based supply company, spearheaded the project and generously donated all needed materials.
The results of the new habitat, unveiled to the tortoises on Wednesday, Sept. 21, are stunning. It includes a stream running through a twin cypress stump and fern-covered oak logs that give the exhibit an authentic Florida look.
The tortoises will enjoy an easy-to-access gently bubbling stream that consistently recirculates water. Underground is a 500-gallon reservoir that keeps the water cool and fresh. The design will save maintenance time for Keepers at the Zoo because they won’t have to dump and fill water regularly.
“We are thankful for all the people who visited from around the country to make this possible, especially to our good friends at Six Flags Nursery, who have long been supporters,” Zoo CEO Richard E. Glover Jr. said. “Seeing everyone working so closely together and enjoying themselves during the build was impressive to watch.”
Six Flags Nursery owners Jon and Amanda Gunther were happy to get involved in this build. “I have visited the Zoo for decades. I played here as a child, volunteered as a teenager and brought my family as an adult,” Jon said. “So the Zoo is close to my heart, and it’s exciting to see this take shape. We are proud to have played a part in helping the habitat for the endangered species.”
Beaulieu, the Pond Professor from Aquascape®, used the build as an opportunity to teach teams how to build environmentally sensitive landscapes that combine the needs of the habitat with the local fauna, using the most up-to-date ecofriendly filtration technology.
“The bigger picture is to create a living ecosystem that is engaging for the animals,” Beaulieu said. “The radiated tortoises are curious animals; they will explore everywhere. So, we have different water levels for them to enjoy and unique access points.”
The AZA-accredited Central Florida Zoo has four radiated tortoises. The critically endangered radiated tortoise lives in the forests and scrublands of Madagascar.
The new radiated tortoise habitat display is open to the public daily. It is located next to the North American river otter exhibit.