A man has impressed viewers after sharing a video of him handling an alligator snapping turtle online.
Chris Leone and his wife, Casey, run the rescue and breeding facility Garden State Tortoise in New Jersey.
Snapping turtles are found throughout North America up to eastern Canada and even in pockets of Central America and Ecuador. Famed for their large size and aggressive nature, they have a rough upper shell, small cross-shaped lower shell, long tail, and large head with distinctive hooked jaws.
Several different species of snapping turtle are found in North America, including alligator snapping turtles like Chief Brody.
This week, Chris and Casey Leone amazed followers on their Facebook page with a video of Chris handling one of their resident snapping turtles. It has amassed more than 214,000 views.
The start of the clip focuses on alligator snapping turtle Chief Brody. “We recently took him in from a friend. He was found out of range, walking around aimlessly,” Leone told Newsweek. “Most likely, he was poached from the wild and then either ditched or he escaped his containment. It’s a classic, unfortunate story that a lot of turtles suffer from.”
Leone said: “Snapping turtles can of course be dangerous, but they are often very misunderstood. They do not seek out humans with the intention of harming them. They simply defend themselves when harassed.
“Being an alligator snapping turtle, Chief Brody has a much more powerful bite than a common snapping does, but he is incapable of being as quick as a common snapper.”
The alligator snapping turtle also has a shorter neck, meaning they cannot swing their heads backward to bite. “He simply opens his huge mouth as a display to warn anything looking to hurt him,” said Leone. “He absolutely will deliver a crushing bite if anything enters his biting range. Children should never mess with a snapping turtle of any kind, and adults should use extreme caution.”
Now 35 years old, Leone has been working with turtles since he was just 5 years old. “The safe way to handle an alligator snapping turtle is exactly the way I’ve shown in the video. You grab the rim of the shell behind the head and also grab the back of the shell,” said Leone.
“It is not how to handle a common snapping turtle. Those can be grabbed only by the back of the shell and then held outward to avoid the swinging head and snapping mouth. They are extremely fast.”
Well-trained with the animals, herpetologist Leone and his former zookeeper wife started Garden State Tortoise in 2011. As owners of a rescue, breeding facility, and hub for conservation work, the couple have dedicated their lives to turtles, tortoises and other reptiles.
“We currently house over 300 animals at our property and in our facility,” said Leone. “We truly believe that all sides involving wildlife are absolutely needed to save them from extinction.
“This means both conservation efforts with the animals in nature, as well as responsible captive keeping, are equally a must to keep them around for generations to come.”
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