Kiwanis of Lufkin, TX

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Project No. 10 - Giant Tortoise - 1999


Giant Tortoise


(Geochelene elephantopus)
Found on the islands off the coast of Ecuador, these giant tortoises, one of the largest of the land tortoises, were nearly wiped out by seal and whale hunters who killed the tortoises for their meat and oil. The tortoises then had to compete for food with goats, dogs and cats who were released on the islands by visitors, thus reducing their numbers even further. Today, out of the original sixteen species of giant tortoise found, only fourteen species survive and two of those do not have enough individuals left to insure that their species survive. Captive breeding programs in zoos are helping to make a difference by providing healthy individuals to be released back into the wild.

This year the Lufkin Kiwanis Club volunteered to build and finance a new tortoise exhibit. Work was scheduled for Thursday afternoons for retirees and Saturday mornings and afternoons for all Kiwanians. Members of the Key Club were also invited to work with us.

Site to be improved

Work on the project commenced on March 18th and was finished on May 27th. Posts were installed and a hog panel fence was erected around the complete area. To this was attached heavy mesh wire to strengthen the fence and to prevent the tortoises from eating the plants between this fence and the walkway. A new shed was constructed for the tortoises as it was felt that the old shed would be too difficult to move without severe damage to it. Zoo personnel wired and installed two heat lamps that will be used in the winter months to keep the tortoises warm.

Charlotte Henley                                                Judy Sullivan & Gordon Henley

Wilton Killam & Sam Pirtle                                Charlie Harris & Kris Mettlen & Fred Preston

It was originally planned to build a wooden railing over the old chain link fence along the walkway. It was then decided to remove the old fence and construct a decorative fence in its place, this fence to be of similar construction to that on the manderin duck and black buck exhibits. The old fence was difficult to remove because the base of the posts and the chain links were cemented into the walkway. This necessitated cutting the posts and fence links with a cut off grinder. Joe Havard, owner of A-1 Rental Center and Kiwanis Club President, provided the grinder.

Carrie Obenland & Ross Reynolds (KeyClubers)                                 Jo Ann Burton & Sam Griffin Jr.

Al Underwood                                      Dr. Bob Garrett

Caladium and periwinkles were planted between the hog panel and the decorative fence.

Seventeen Kiwanians participated in this year's project. Of these, 8 were retirees. There were 6 Key Club members who worked on the project with us. This was indeed appreciated. Kiwanians who worked on this project were guided by Gordon Henley, Zoo Director, and assisted by Celia Falzone, Curator, Charlie Harris, Maintenance Supervisor, and Kris Mettlen, maintenance employee. Charlotte Henley, Director of Education, a Kiwanian, also put in many hours on the project. A total of 230 man (and women)-hours were expended.

Carol Riggs       Judy Sullivan
Carol Riggs                                                 Judy Sullivan

Again this year, those Kiwanians who worked eight (8) hours or more were awarded a "Zoo Crew" T-shirt" which was presented at a regular club meeting to 9 Kiwanians. Six of these awardees were retirees.

the Freds       Patrick Vaughn
Fred Preston & Fred Jacobs                                                 Patrick Vaughn

Family Funerals, through the courtesy of Kiwanian Wayne Roberson, donated the bronze plaque for this year's exhibit.

Ward Burke
Ward Burke

Wilton Killam
Wilton Killam

Not pictured but two who were awarded a T shirt, Richard Thompson and David Lively.

Cost of materials for the project was $1900.00. A check for this amount was presented to the Mayor of Lufkin, Louis Bronaugh, on June 11th in a ceremony at the exhibit. To this date, the Kiwanis Club of Lufkin has donated a total of $31822.00 and has worked a total of 3227 man-hours on the ten completed projects.

Moving the Tortoise

Brian moving a tortoise
Coaxing the tortoise to their new habitat, using bananas, (Top)Brian & Celia and (Bottom) Brian Henley. (40 minutes to go 200 feet)

Finished Exhibit
Finished Exhibit

Dedication on June 11, 1999
L-R:Gordon Henley, son Brian Henley, Mayor Bronaugh, Fred Jacobs, Jack Gorden, Kiwanis Pres. Joe Havard.

Gordon Henley, Zoo Director Fred Jacobs
Our Fearless Leaders
Gordon Henley                                                 Fred Jacobs

The Tortoise Exhibit is a very attractive asset to the zoo and one for which the club should be very proud.


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Original 6/10/99
Last updated 10/19/2000
Page by F. Jacobs
and F. Preston