When you think zoo animals, you usually don't think bugs. Lucky for us, the Lead Outreach Specialist at the Dallas Zoo, Robin Ryan showed Eye Opener's Oliver Tull some cool cockroaches and one sassy tortoise. Oliver didn't care too much for the roaches, but when Sunny the radiated tortoise came on the scene, Oliver lit up (so to speak).
Robin let us know that radiated tortoises come from Madagascar and unfortunately are endangered because so many people want to keep them as pets. The thing is, they live a long time. Robin says the oldest radiated tortoise actually lived to 188 years old. Now while they may outlive you, and aren't the best pets, they actually react to humans in an interesting way.
Robin tells us that turtles and tortoises can actually feel it when you touch their shell. Robin and Oliver gave Sunny a scratch and the little guy shook it like a Polaroid picture. Matter of fact, on a rainy day in their natural habitat, they come outside to feel the rain and move in a similar way. Robin says the locals call it "the rain dance."
Now on to another Madagascar native, the hissing cockroaches. Oliver declined Robin's offer to place them on his shirt, head, or even to hold the things. Even though they may not be everybody's favorite, Robin says, as detritivores, they are crucial to the ecosystem. Turns out detritivores actually eat decaying plant material and pass it through they're bodies to enrich the soil. So these hissing cockroaches aren't pests. At the Encounter Stage at the Dallas Zoo, trainers even let children hold them. Even so, Oliver had his doubts, saying, "I back off from these because the problem is when they see me, I usually have a shoe in the other hand."
For more be sure to hit up DallasZoo.com.