This year’s Touch An Animal Day moving to Odell Weeks in Aiken


This year’s Touch An Animal Day moving to Odell Weeks in Aiken

Michel’le Jackson
Aiken Standard

Aug. 23, 2019


UGA’s SREL Outreach Manager P.J. Perea, left, and UGA’s SREL Outreach Educator Amanda Hurst, right hold a few gopher tortoises. Courtesy of Aiken Standard: Michel’le Jackson

Ever wonder what it’s like to touch a rattlesnake? The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory plans to give people a chance to find out.

The laboratory will hold the 11th Annual Touch An Animal Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center, 1700 Whiskey Road.

“Because this event has grown so big, we’ve decided to move it to Odell Weeks this year,” UGA’s SREL outreach manager, P.J. Perea, said. “We are bringing all of our animals, plants, insects; and we’ll also have our gopher tortoises,” he said.

Gopher tortoises are endangered reptiles that live in South Carolina, especially around Aiken.

“We just want to let people know what kind of neat animals live in this area, and the research that goes into restoring and protecting these animals,” Perea said.

For the gopher tortoises, South Carolina is the farthest north they can usually be found. SREL often raises baby gopher tortoises at the lab before releasing them to help increase the population.

“Someone decided to pick him (one of the gopher tortoises living at the SREL) up and take him as a pet to New Jersey,” UGA’s SREL outreach educator, Amanda Hurst, said. “But a good Samaritan knew that he did not belong up there, and contacted the lab. He was brought back and reintroduced into his native range,” Hurst said.

This year’s Touch An Animal Day event will feature edible plants, and attendees will have the chance to ask graduate students, conducting research at SREL, questions.

“When people are aware of what’s around them, they’ll be more likely to support it,” Perea said. “They’re not going to say, ‘Well we need a parking lot more than we need a gopher tortoise colony.'”