Meet the bog turtle. It’s undeniably cute, measures four inches long, weighs 3.9 ounces and is critically endangered. It’s also now New Jersey’s official state reptile.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation Monday that officially designated the species as state reptile. It’s been a long journey for such a small animal; two years ago, Mark Eastburn, a science teacher at Riverside Elementary school in Mercer County, told his students that New Jersey did not have a state reptile. The students decided to take action and advocate for the endangered bog turtle to become New Jersey’s state reptile.
“We have been told that there are very few bills in the New Jersey Legislature that could ever pass a unanimous vote and we are very grateful that Democrats and Republicans can come together and support this effort,” said Jeremy Wachtell, a fifth-grade student at Riverside Elementary School.
The legislation is more, however, than a feel-good break from Trenton political mudslinging. The bill, sponsored by Senator Kip Bateman, and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, is meant to shine light on the bog turtle’s critically endangered status.
According to a report published in The Journal of Wildlife Management, the bog turtle’s troubles are numerous. Their habitat is being threatened by urban development and invasive plants, the small turtles are targeted by skunks and snakes, plus they have a naturally low reproductive rate and do not achieve sexual maturity until between four and 10 years of age.
“I commend New Jersey’s young students, teachers and scientists for working hard to protect our critically endangered bog turtles and our environment,” said Murphy, at a signing ceremony. “I could not be more excited to sign a bill officially making the bog turtle New Jersey’s state reptile. This bill shows that when we work together, we can accomplish some pretty great things.”