Can Turtles Smell? Do Birds Fart?

Part of our job as rehabilitation externs is providing patient enrichment. To enrich is to stimulate the animal’s senses in a way that’s slightly out of ordinary from its everyday life in an enclosure. For example, we might change perches in an eagle’s enclosure, or provide a paper towel roll stuffed with mouse goodies for an owl to tear into. There are so many different ways to give enrichment and excitement to our patients!

However, occasionally sleeplessness and over-caffeination will cause us to forget some pertinent information about our animals. We don’t want to provide something to our animals that have absolutely no effect for said patient.

At one point, we were brainstorming about turtle enrichment. None of us had a good evening the night before, it was the 2:00 afternoon slump, the coffee wasn’t ready, and we were stumped. We realized we had oil scents to use, and my co-workers and I thought we’d be able to incorporate that into our enrichment the next day. All of a sudden, someone asked, “Can turtles even smell?”

None of us was able to think too clearly at the time, but a quick Google search revealed that turtles can indeed smell things. But this resulted in more questions about the animals we care for:

Can birds fart? (They can’t, their lower GI tract is too short.)

Then: Can snakes fart? (Yes! Apparently they can!)

Can owls smell? (They likely can, but not well.)

Can beavers see well? (They are severely near-sighted.)

And of course the usual question of, can elephants jump? (They can’t.)

--Catherine
WCV Class of 2015