Sunday, December 21, 2014

Turtle study shows dark side of human nature

Do you brake for turtles?

Turtle study shows dark side of human nature

Do you brake for turtles?

I do, all the time. I have no problem stopping traffic to help a turtle cross the road (Tip: put her in the brush in the direction she was headed.)

I think most animal lovers would end up in a ditch rather than strike a critter in the road.

I've often wondered, especially when I see an animal dead on the far shoulder of a multi-lane highway, did someone hit that groundhog on purpose?

Well, apparently the answer in too many cases is yes.

Clemson University student decided to try an experiment to find out how to help turtles cross the road.

What he got was a lesson in the dark side of human soul, reports ABCNews.

Nathan Weaver put a realistic rubber turtle in the middle of a lane on a busy road near the campus of the South Carolina school.

Then watched over the next hour as seven drivers swerved and deliberately ran over the animal. Several more apparently tried to hit it but missed.

"I've heard of people and from friends who knew people that ran over turtles. But to see it out here like this was a bit shocking," said Weaver, a senior in Clemson's School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences.

 

Veteran researchers were  not surprised, citing "The Great Santini" complex: the need for humans to prove they are the dominant species.

"They aren't thinking, really. It is not something people think about. It just seems fun at the time," said Hal Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University. "It is the dark side of human nature."

Herzog asked a class of 110 students whether they had intentionally run over a turtle, or been in a car with someone who did. Thirty-four students raised their hands, about two-thirds of them male, said Herzog, author of a book about humans' relationships with animals, called "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat."

Weaver, who became interested in animals and conservation through the Boy Scouts and TV's "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, is interested in developing turtle underpasses or a campaign aimed at educating teens against such cruel behavior toward wildlife.

In South Carolina author Pat Conroy's semi-autobiographical novel "The Great Santini," a fighter-pilot father squishes turtles during a late-night drive when he thinks his wife and kids are asleep. His wife confronts him, saying: "It takes a mighty brave man to run over turtles."

The father claims hitting turtles was his "hobby." 

 In fairness, it's easy to mistake a turtle for a rock in the road or a snake for a stick. But their deaths at the hands of careless - or cruel - drivers takes a toll, particularly on the declining box turtle population.

It takes a turtle up to eight years to become mature enough to reproduce. Usually, the turtles traveling across the road are females traveling to a pond to lay their eggs. Experts say the worst thing you can do is try to move the turtle to another place away from its nest. They say just put it safely on the side of the road it was headed toward.

In her 50-year life a female turtle may produce 100 or more eggs, but just two or three of those eggs are likely to survive, said Weaver's professor Rob Baldwin.

(Photo/Staten Island Advance)

 

Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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