Please Look at These Turtles, Wolf Blitzer
With #ShowWolfATurtle, reptile biologists court a prominent new herp fan.
Wolf Blitzer—Emmy winner, frequent cameo-maker, anchor of Wolf and The Situation Room—is a busy man. But on May 14, just before 11 a.m., and to the probable delight of his 1.15 million followers, he took a little time out to tweet.
“Always nice to see a turtle,” he typed, above a slightly blurry picture of a pond slider (Trachemys scripta).
Always nice to see a turtle. pic.twitter.com/SMlFMl9jZi— Wolf Blitzer (@wolfblitzer) May 14, 2017
Turtles may be a little shy, but the humans who love them are bold. As soon as he saw the tweet, ecologist and science communication devotee David Steen leapt into action, posting another turtle for Blitzer to see. “Hi @wolfblitzer this is a Loggerhead Musk Turtle. Highly aquatic and from the SE USA, they like to eat aquatic invertebrates.” He then added an excellent hashtag: #ShowWolfATurtle.
Steen is a genius of hashtag herpetology. His previous hits include #ReignTheSwamp, which aims to save the ecosystem’s reputation from Trumpian metaphors, and #NotACopperhead, which is dedicated to snake identification.
Hey @wolfblitzer check out a Florida Soft-shell Turtle. Aren’t they weird? They’re highly carnivorous & surprisingly fast #ShowWolfATurtle pic.twitter.com/4Q4Gnn5g3E— David Steen, Ph.D. (@AlongsideWild) May 15, 2017
“I’m always on the lookout for ways to reach new people and get them thinking about wildlife conservation,” he says. “It didn’t take me long to realize this could be something that people might have fun with.”
After Steen followed up with a few more offerings—a pair of European pond turtles from Azerbaijan, a Florida softshell with a surprisingly pointy nose—others plunged in, like turtles slipping off a log. “The hashtag went crazy among science communicators,” says Tim Akimoff, the social media coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Hey @wolfblitzer, check out this smol & grump snapping turtle. I bet it wishes it was older so I would fear it properly! #ShowWolfATurtle pic.twitter.com/EvAd80owu4— Asia Murphy (@am_anatiala) May 15, 2017
Soon, there were all the turtles a human could hope for: sandy hatchlings, dandelion-munchers, algae-covered basking buddies.
Reptile lovers are chuffed. “In general people tend to think turtles and tortoises are slow rocks that aren’t worth their time,” says Nicole Agusti, who runs Tort-Time, a tortoise and turtle blog dedicated to giving the opposite impression. “I think sharing this moment with Mr. Blitzer, acknowledging that it is nice to see a turtle, is a great way to show people how amazing they are.”
How about three Western pond turtles with a bonus pair of mallards? #ShowWolfATurtle pic.twitter.com/NIwFVFIszp— Watershed Ecotherapy (@watershedeco) May 15, 2017
Although it is, indeed, always nice to see a turtle, learning about them can be a bit more emotionally fraught—it is the anthropocene, after all. Sam Evans-Brown, the host of NHPR’s “Outside In Radio” podcast, put up a Blanding’s turtle, pointing out that it is “one of four species of concern here in New Hampshire.”
Steen posted an X-ray of a spiny softshell who had swallowed a fishhook. And Akimoff, seeking to draw attention to the plight of abandoned pets, posted a rescued Russian tortoise. (Poetic license.)
I mean duh @wolfblitzer, look how cute this hatchling Spotted Turtle is. #ShowWolfATurtle pic.twitter.com/lLLBKSMyWA— Samantha Dean (@samdeanscience) May 15, 2017
Many of the pilers-on hoped, Yertle-like, to reach a critical mass. “[Blitzer is] in a great position to reach a lot of people who might not normally follow scientists on Twitter,” says Niki Dykstra, a biology Ph.D. student, who offered a photo of her grinning son holding a turtle.
Steen agrees: “I would love for Mr. Blitzer to consider whether he should dedicate more time and energy to talking about wildlife conservation on CNN,” he says. (Blitzer, who at press time was in the Situation Room, has not responded to a request for comment.)
At the very least, the anchor will have fodder for a few more Twitter breaks. “If my feed were to be inundated by turtles, I would be delighted,” says Akimoff.
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