New Year, New Blog

Wow, it’s 2009 and I’m starting the new year with my own blog.


Russ Case blog

REPTILES editor Russ Case and Helmut his red-eared slider turtle



This being a blog from the editor of a magazine that focuses on reptiles and amphibians, you won’t be surprised by the fact that those animals will often be discussed here. There’s always plenty to write about when you consider the place they have carved out in our society. Herps (for the uninitiated, this is a collective term meaning reptiles and amphibians) have surged in popularity the past couple of decades. When else would a gecko become an advertising icon?

A close-up of Helmut enjoying his favorite activity, basking!


The hobby of keeping reptiles is a fulfilling one. Over the years I have kept many different species. As a hobbyist I was one of those who preferred keeping many different types rather than focus on only one species. I say “was” because due to extenuating circumstances (including space limitations, as well as the facts that I live alone and travel often) I no longer keep any pets at home. I do keep a red-eared slider in my office, however.

One Saturday I received a phone call at home from another BowTie editor, and she said she had found a turtle in her backyard. From her description it sounded like it was a red-eared slider. Because I happened to have an empty aquarium on the floor of my office I suggested she bring the turtle to work the following week and we’d set him up in that. And so we did.

Upon the turtle’s arrival – it was indeed a red-eared slider, a male -- I sent an e-mail out to the editorial department inviting people to submit names for him. I received several, the weirdest being to name him “Editurtial.” I decided to go with Helmut, suggested by, perhaps not surprisingly, an editor of German ancestry. I liked it because it was both a cool name and brought to mind a helmet, which a turtle carapace could be said to resemble (and indeed, people often think I’m saying “helmet” when I tell them his name). Fellow BowTie-ers enjoy coming into my office to see what Helmut is up to. If you know sliders, his activities pretty much amount to a) basking, b) swimming and c) eating (lately he’s been scarfing down the Aquatic Turtle Monster Diet, as well as feeder fish and frozen cubes of beefheart).

Cleaning an aquatic turtle tank in an office environment, on the second floor without a ready water source, is challenging. I’ve gotten it down to routine, though. I have to load the tank onto a cart and trundle it through the department to the men’s room on the other side of the building. I have to roll it really slowly, otherwise I get some wave action and I don’t particularly like getting dirty turtle tank water splashed up into my face. In the restroom I dump the turtle water into a toilet and scrub down the tank and equipment (a Zoo Med floating platform and Fluval submersible filter). During cleaning times (done after hours when most people have left) I dread the thought of something slipping and several gallons of dirty turtle tank water ending up on the carpeted floor of the editorial department. The closest I’ve come was about a half gallon on the floor of the men’s room during one of the initial cleanings. So I have to be very careful and take things slow.

Since taking up residence at BowTie I like to think Helmut is happy. He’s even turned into a part-time model, and has had his photo taken for various publications. I can’t say he seemed to enjoy his modeling experiences – his legs generally do a fair amount of flailing during a photo shoot, and that’s if he comes out of his shell at all. The editors here get a kick out of him, and it’s nice having Helmut as an officemate. That’s him with me in the drawing that accompanies this blog.

Now that you’ve been introduced to Helmut, the unofficial REPTILES editorial department turtle, I’ll end my first blog entry. I will strive to provide enough random neural firings to keep this blog interesting and entertaining to readers. I welcome any comments anyone would care to offer to help me reach that goal. Happy new year!


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