SIMON AND SATILLA
These 3-year-old American alligators came to the Sea Island Nature Center as tiny hatchlings and have grown to be a couple feet long. They are named for St. Simons Island and the Satilla River. Still rather young, they have classic yellow and tan stripes on their scales for camouflage purposes, and guests are often invited to touch their skin and tail. “Eventually, they’ll outgrow their home here in our Nature Center and move to a larger center in Florida,” Rogers notes.
From top left to bottom right: Simon, Carlton and Terry.
Adorned in vivid orange and red hues, the Nature Center’s Eastern box turtle, Carlton, is a stunning sight to behold. At 9 years old, this land-dwelling creature has been at the resort for most of his life, where he spends his time munching on fruits and veggies and interacting with guests. “His favorite snacks are tomatoes and bananas,” says Rogers. “When the Camp Cloister kids visit the Nature Center, we often let them feed Carlton and watch him emerge from his shell.” The species is named for a hinge on the belly side of the shell that allows these turtles to box up for protection against predators. “He’s very different from a lot of the other animals in the Nature Center because the majority of our species are aquatic,” Rogers adds.
TERRY AND PENNY
These small diamondback terrapin turtles — about the size of the palm of a hand — have comparatively large jaws, speckled skin and ring patterns on their shells. While sea turtles live exclusively in saltwater, the diamond terrapin turtles spend most of their time in brackish water, so they’re often found in the salt marsh wetlands where they feast on shrimp, mollusks and bivalves. “They’re rare in nature, and their population is in decline, so it’s a really unique experience to get to see them and even potentially touch them here at the Nature Center,” Rogers adds. Both of these turtles are upwards of 6 years old, though the Nature Center is also home to two other younger terrapin turtles, giving guests the chance to see them at different stages of life.