Hi everyone, here’s my first tweet to celebrate World Turtle Day! I am with our giant Aldabra tortoise Rocket. http://t.co/tNNY7r7qq4
James J. Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo, is a self-described “dinosaur” when it comes to technology. “I’m an animal guy,” he said. “I’m not a techno guy.”
Yet as he makes his rounds of the zoo, the flagship institution of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Mr. Breheny often makes observations of mammals, birds and reptiles – both on public view and behind the scenes – that he would like to share. And so, on Thursday (World Turtle Day!) at noon, he sent his inaugural tweet, a photograph of one of his favorite animals, a 650-pound Aldabra tortoise named Rocket that the public will not get to see until early next year.
“We do a lot of conservation work with turtles and tortoises all over the world,” he said in a phone interview before his foray into the world of Twitter. “They’re really neat animals, but they are under enormous pressure from the pet trade and from hunters for food. ”
Mr. Breheny, who also oversees the management and exhibition of animal collections at the Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and New York Aquarium, said he believed that social media like Twitter could enhance the public’s understanding of the conservation society’s programs and mission. “As I go around the zoo, everybody seems to be really connected electronically and digitally,” he said. “I realized that it can be a valuable tool.”
Once he gets used to expressing himself in 140 characters, Mr. Breheny, using the handle @JimBreheny, hopes to post a couple of times a day. While he insists that he has no favorites in the collection, he hinted that coming tweets are likely to include vignettes from the giraffe exhibit, which he said “looks spectacular right now,” as well as the eagle aviary.
As for his first tweet, Mr. Breheny, a lifelong lover of tortoises and turtles, said that Rocket was a natural subject. Rocket, who joined the Bronx Zoo about two months ago from the Tulsa Zoo (Aldabra tortoises are native to the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean), is thought to be between 80 and 100 years old. He will make his debut next spring in a new komodo dragon exhibit scheduled to open in the fall.
“He’s a big boy,” Mr. Breheny said of Rocket. “He’s intelligent. And he loves to be scratched.”