by Jordan Gray
Who: John Greene
What: Private Hobbyist
Where: San Diego, California, USA
Jordan Gray: What is your earliest childhood memory with a turtle or tortoise?
John Greene: When I was a child growing up in Upstate New York, my grandparents had a house at a lake, and I would spend the summers on the lake. At about the age of 5, I discovered how to catch hatchling turtles in the lake coves and adjacent swampy areas. If you have ever seen a freshly-hatched Eastern musk turtle or “Stinkpot” (Sternotherus odoratus), then you can imagine the awe I was in as to how small they can be. At home, I was lucky enough as a child to have a separate room in our house for all of my fish tanks and reptiles. My mother would let me bring home turtles, frogs, and crayfish from the lake for a few months so I could observe them in the habitats I would create for them at home, so long as I returned them to the very exact spot I found them at in the lake.
JG: How did you first become involved in the turtle and tortoise hobby?
JGrn: I have been keeping turtles for 42 out of the 47 years of my life. From as far back as I can remember I have always rooted for the underdog, and I guess in that regard I have always looked at turtles as being the underdog. For the last several decades at the least, turtles really have been the underdogs on this planet due to all the pressures against their populations; they need all the help we can give!
JG: What is your favorite species of turtle or tortoise to work with?
JGrn: Ohh…. Soo… Many! Every time I see a new species, I fall in love. However, my first choice will always be Box Turtles especially of the Cuora genus. My primary focus is on the Indochinese Box Turtle (Cuora galbinifrons) complex. More members of the Cuora complex may become functionally extinct in the wild within our lifetime, if not the near future. There is so much we don’t know about them, including all the vocalizations they do.
JG: What is the most amusing situation you have found yourself in when working with chelonians?
JGrn: I had some Black-breasted Leaf Turtles (Geoemyda spengleri) in my bedroom, and each morning at sunrise one of the males would bang on the glass and just look at me. It was a big terrarium that had a swinging side door; he would walk over to where the door opened and beg for food all morning long.
JG: What is your favorite aspect of the Annual Symposium on the Conservation and Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles?
JGrn: Once a year the greatest “turtle minds” from all over the world get together for this event; anyone who is serious about turtles needs to figure out a way to attend! There is so much to learn from the other chelonian enthusiasts such as the sharing techniques, thoughts, ideas, findings, and hypotheses. For me it’s an outlet to recharge; I leave the conference with my “Turtle Batteries” 100% full!
JG: Who has been your biggest inspiration in the field of herpetology, specifically with chelonians? Is there anyone in particular that you have met at an Annual Symposium who really inspires you?
JGrn: Cris Hagen, Sheena Koeth, Nathan Haislip, Clint Doak, and Carol Alvarez who work day-in and day-out at the TSA’s Turtle Survival Center. They have my dream job, as each day they are afforded the opportunity to work with and provide husbandry for some of the most imperiled turtles in the world.
JG: What attracted you to become part of the Turtle Survival Alliance?
JGrn: Thanks to the internet and social media, I discovered that there were people on this planet just like me. Being a member of the TSA keeps me up-to-date on all the new and successful chelonian conservation projects going on around the world. Also having a venue (the Annual Symposium) where I am able to meet and interact with hundreds of like-minded “Turtle People” each year is what keeps bringing me back. TSA’s motto is “Committed to Zero Turtle Extinctions” and I could not agree with this goal more!