Sun, water, food and friends — Sprauve School turtle farm was part of the local education scene until about a month ago.
ST. JOHN – One thing’s for sure … they didn’t run away.
Eleven land turtles that occupied the Julius E. Sprauve School turtle farm have reportedly vanished. The mysterious disappearance of turtles from St. John’s only public school have left staff and parents baffled.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the shell dwellers did not vanish all at once. Among the disappointed, former Sprauve School Principal Dionne Wells.
Education spokesperson Cynthia Graham said the former principal, now the Insular Superintendent of Schools for the St. Thomas-St. John District, created the farm about three years ago as a way to promote interactive learning about the environment.
Gallows Point security officer Mano Boyd, who helps out as a Sprauve School volunteer said the turtle farm was kept in part of the cafetorium. From time to time the turtles would be moved to a mini garden near the front gate, Boyd said.
Cafeteria workers and school monitors took turn feeding the turtles. Boyd recently showed off a cell phone video showing students offering lettuce leaves to turtles in the outdoor setting.
Many at Sprauve School were fond of the turtle farm, Boyd said. The first sign that something was wrong came about four weeks ago, when school personnel noticed there were fewer turtles in the enclosure. Several days later, Boyd said they were all gone.
There was also no explanation as to why the disappearance was not reported to Zone D Police Command, across the street from Sprauve School. When contacted about the incident, Police spokesperson Glen Dratte said inquiries about missing turtles should be referred to Fish and Wildlife.
The Education spokesperson declined to say what efforts have been made to retrieve the turtles. “The Department and school are unable to offer a reward for information leading to the turtles, but we do hope that if anyone in the community knows anything about their disappearance they would come forward,” Graham said.
“The turtles were beloved by students, staff and many members of the community.”
And while the turtles may have received much love from the school staff and students, they get little respect by way of protection. Under Virgin Islands law, sea turtles are protected from poachers, but not land turtles.
The mysterious misfortune of aquatic critters at public schools is also not a first. Several years ago vandals slipped into the aquaponics lab at the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and poisoned the fish. The loss left the school and the community stunned.
But through efforts of the lab instructor and a student and donations from public and private supporters, the high school fish farm was restored several months later.