BROUSSARD, La. -- A new exhibit at Zoosiana has plenty of visitors asking questions.
The zoo, formerly the Zoo of Acadiana in Broussard, welcomed a two-headed animal recently, a slider turtle named Michael and Angelo after Michaelangleo from the animated television show "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
Two-year-old Talan Stelly was dressed for the debut of the exhibit in the Jungle Room Saturday. The toddler was wearing a Michaelangelo-themed jacket, showing off his admiration for turtles.
His father, Drake Stelly, said he and his wife, Taylor, saw a post on the zoo's Facebook page about the two-headed turtle and thought it would be an interesting part of the exhibit for their family to see.
Taylor Stelly said her son loves turtles and she knew he was would be intrigued by one with two heads. She said he was filled with questions about the animal.
"He just thought it was pretty cool," she said. "He likes turtles."
Zookeeper Matt Oldenburg said the animal came from RainForest Adventures Discover Zoo in Sevierville, Tenn. The local zoo has a positive relationship with the zoo in Tennessee, he said, so they reached out to Acadiana about caring for the animal.
The slider turtle, which is native to the United States, is bicephalic, meaning it has two heads, Oldenburg said. Michael and Angelo actually are twins that did not fully separate and resulted in having two heads on one body, he said.
"They're two completely different animals; they're just attached to each other," Oldenburg said. "They've got different personalities, different preferences when it comes to food and they can't agree on which direction to walk half the time."
Bicephalic animals are uncommon, but they are not unheard of in both the wild and zoo populations. When bicephalic animals do occur, they often are in snakes and turtles, according to a prepared statement from the zoo.
Since arriving in Acadiana, the turtle has been eating well and seems to enjoy the new home in the Deep South, Oldenburg said. Michael, the larger head on the left, likes salmon and Angelo, the smaller head on the right, prefers bloodworms.
"The keepers are really impressed with them, and we're really honored to care for such a special animal like this," Oldenburg said.
He said sliders are located throughout Louisiana and can grow several inches long. Michael and Angelo one could fit in the palm of an average-sized hand.
"This little guy, being that he is about 5 years old, we can predict that he's pretty much grown at this point," Oldenburg said.
Oldenburg said the animal needs some specialized care, including carefully monitoring the depth of the water in the case. He said the animal sometimes can get trapped under water if not careful.
"We make sure to give them enough water where they can flip over their heads, but not enough to where they could possibly flip over and drown," Oldenburg said.
Oldenburg said the zoo soon will have its veterinarian, All Creatures in New Iberia, examine the animal to see how exactly it functions. He said he thinks Michael, the larger head, may be more dominant.
Information from: The Daily Iberian, http://www.iberianet.com
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