The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden continues the fan-favorite Animal Awareness Days with World Turtle Day on Saturday, May 4, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Guests are encouraged to visit the Wetlands Walkway habitat at the Zoo for a spate of fun and educational activities.

                One focus of World Turtle Day will be Max, a Galapagos tortoise who has made the Zoo his home for fifty years. Guests who make a $50 donation to the Oklahoma Zoological Society in support of tortoise and habitat conservation will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a four pack of tickets for a Galapagos tortoise Wild Encounter worth $200. Other raffle items include Art Gone Wild canvases painted by turtles at the OKC Zoo. All donations will go to the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Radiated Tortoise SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) Program, which seeks to prevent the extinction of the species through strategic conservation and public engagement activities.

                “We all love Max, so it’s great to be able to celebrate his anniversary while also raising awareness of endangered turtle species around the world,” said Mandy Heaps, executive direction of the Oklahoma Zoological Society. “Turtles are among the most endangered vertebrates on Earth with more than half of all turtle species threatened with extinction.”

The festivities begin online at 9:30 a.m. with a Facebook Live event an animal caretaker, sharing some interesting turtle facts. Visitors to the Zoo can also stop in for free Caretaker Chats in Wetlands Walkway at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m.

               Other activities include a Turtle Eye Spy game matching turtle species with their conservation status, a demonstration on using radio telemetry to find turtles, and a Guess-the-Turtle spin wheel. And be sure to sign the Not a Pet pledge banner near the Galapagos tortoise habitat before you leave. Turtles and tortoises are often victims of the pet trade, even though they don’t make good pets.

               Protecting wildlife and wild places is at the core of the OKC Zoo’s mission. Since 2018, the Zoo has contributed $40,000 to the Turtle Survival Alliance and the Radiated Tortoise SAFE program in addition to in-kind support. Turtles and tortoises are the most endangered group of vertebrates in the world.

Radiated tortoises are critically endangered and can only be found in Madagascar, but they’re often illegally collected from the wild in large numbers for smuggling out of the country for the pet trade and local food consumption. In 2018, more than 10,000 radiated tortoises were confiscated from smugglers and the OKC Zoo sent two staff members to Madagascar to care for dehydrated and ill tortoises. OKC Zoo staff also conducted research in Madagascar to identify safe release sites and rescued tortoises are now being released back into the wild at these sites.

                 The Zoo also provides annual funding to the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, which works to reduce wildlife trafficking, including illegal trade in tortoises, freshwater and sea water turtles, and seeks to reduce the purchase and sale of illegal wildlife and wildlife products. 

                 Since 2021, the Zoo has taken part in the alligator snapping turtle head start program managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. The Zoo takes in young alligator snapping turtles hatched at the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery to raise them until they can be reintroduced to their native habitats.

                “Turtles are fascinating and charismatic creatures that can live for more than 100 years and have been an important part of many cultures,” said OKC Zoo herpetology and aquatics curator Seamus Ehrhard. “It is our responsibility to ensure their survival and to protect the sparse habitat they have left.”



  • Galapagos tortoises have one of the longest lifespans of all tortoises. Ms. B a Galapagos tortoise at the OKC Zoo, is estimated to be 120!
  • Turtles are among the most endangered vertebrates on the planet. Over 50% of all turtles are threatened with extinction.
  • Turtles and tortoises cannot leave their shells. Turtle shells are made up of many bones including their rib cages!
  • For some turtle species, the temperature of the egg during incubation will determine the sex. For example, lower temperatures will produce males while lower temperatures will produce females.
  • Alligator snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtle in North America
  • A tortoise IS a turtle, but a turtle is NOT a tortoise! Tortoises are turtles that are adapted to live on land while turtles spend the majority of their time in the water.
  • Turtles don’t have teeth! Many are born with an “egg tooth” which helps them break open their shell when hatching but falls off afterwards.
  • A group of tortoises is called a creep!
  • The ring of scutes on a tortoise’s shell does not correlate with its age. Scutes are shed regularly and tortoises can grow several in one year
  • Turtles and tortoises do NOT make good pets and are often victims of the pet trade. Join the OKC Zoo in Being an Ally for Animals through the AZA’s Not a Pet Pledge!


Zoo guests who arrive early will also receive a free water bottle courtesy of Shape Your Future, a program of TSET, while supplies last. Water bottles will be given away beginning at 9 a.m. as guests enter the park. World Turtle Day activities are free with regular admission.

In addition to World Turtle Day, the Zoo’s horticulture team is hosting a Spring plant sale from 9 a.m. to noon in the Entry Plaza. Seasonal annual and perennial plants will be available for purchase alongside packages of OKC Zoo Poo—the Zoo’s premium compost sourced from organic plant material and Zoo animals.

Come say shell-o to some radical reptiles during World Turtle Day at the OKC Zoo! The Oklahoma City Zoo is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with the last entry no later than 4 p.m. Purchase advance Zoo admission tickets at and avoid the entry lines. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, and Oklahoma City’s Adventure District. Zoo admission is $16 for adults and $13 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Membership has its perks! As a ZOOfriends member of the Oklahoma City Zoo, enjoy free admission all year-long, plus many additional benefits and discounts. You will also be supporting the Zoo’s animal family, education programming and conservation initiatives both locally and globally. Join or renew today at

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