Online Petition Calls for Aspen Art Museum to Remove iPads From Tortoises

Online Petition Calls for Aspen Art Museum to Remove iPads From Tortoises

People are outraged at the Aspen Art Museum who have installed iPads on its desert tortoises. A petition has been circulating to remove the iPads.

The online petition on says the following:

Dear Aspen Art Museum, Cai Guo-Qiang, The Turtle Conservancy and City of Aspen

We, the undersigned, request you end this animal exploitation and abuse. The Tortoises that you have in your new display in the new Aspen Art Museum have had iPads attached to their shells and must endure the weight of 2 iPads on their back as they walk around showing slides of old Aspen in the name of art. Since when is animal abuse art? We must all rise and stop this now!! There is no excuse for this!

So I ask you, do 2 or more wrongs make a right? That they were rescued from a bad situation somehow makes it ok for them to carry these 2 iPads because they are now well fed, have medical care and a view? Or that they have better care/food than they would in wild. This is anthropomorphizing at its finest! Tortoises & Turtles have out lived even the dinosaurs without our help! Clearly they do just fine on their own when left to their own lives. A tortoises' needs are quite simple but their sensitivity to pain and suffering is equal to that of any other living being. And as a living, breathing being deserve to be treated humanely.

And does the fact that a female tortoise can endure the weight of a mate for a few hours once a year somehow justify and prepare them for the unbalancing effect of 2 iPads attached to their backs for several months? Least we forget that then the female tortoise has a choice about what male she lets mount her. She is not strapped down and forced to endure the event.

The point is that they were not given a choice! And even if they were, do any of us speak Tortoise enough to understand what they might choose? As a species, are we really so arrogant as to assume what another species might choose if given the chance?

While we are concerned for Turtles and Tortoises and with the upcoming Ninja Turtles movie, and appreciate people seeing how big these animals can get, we do believe there is a bigger concern here. We think children and irresponsible adults will see this as permission to attach things to all animals. Children mimic what they see adults doing. So it is not a stretch to think that children will see this and start attaching things to animals they encounter. Unfortunately, they will not be as careful as you claim to be, and will use screws, toxic glue and god only knows what else, causing inexorable damage.

Anytime a public display like this, movies, etc shows that it's ok to do various things to animals, children and other non-well adjusted adults will think it's ok/funny, etc and follow suit.

At the very least, there needs to be someone there talking to people and kids about this and telling them "Do Not Try This At Home". Perhaps even hand outs and displays about how many species of turtles and tortoises are endangerd and bring light to the work you all are doing. This may help offset the potential for danger to other animals, though we fear they will anyway.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no scientific outcome from this study, like there is when other devices are attached to wild animals. No overall good for the Tortoise as a species or humankind or any other greater good.

I am greatly concerned that this installation is setting a very bad example on how to treat turtles/tortoises and animals in general.

For reference, the carapace (The carapace is the dorsal (back) convex part of the shell structure of a turtle, consisting primarily of the animal's ribcage, dermal armor and scutes) is sensitive to the slightest impact. If the carapace or plastron be very gently tapped, the nearest leg is alone withdrawn, a heavier tap causing a withdrawal of its whole body. We have here, therefore, a structure which is a true sensitive surface, and like the soft skin of a frog or of a man, it is brought into relation- ship with the central nervous system. Like the soft skin of other animals it may be mapped out into areas, from which the nerve-fibres passing to the spinal cord are all especially connected with outgoing motor nerves, so that the definite reflex movements of limbs as already described may come about.(1)

If you care to take the time to read the petitions, there have been many veterinarians and artists who have spoken out about this exhibit. (2)

Please stop this unnecessary exploitation of animals now and do the right thing by getting these iPad off the Tortoises' backs and make sure they are given to a sanctuary where they will never be abused like this again and put pressure on the artist to vow he will never do anything like this to any other animal ever again!

Thank you.

The current exhibition is described:

Drawing upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, Cai Guo-Qiang's work creates a direct exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them cultivating a site-specific approach to culture and history. For Moving Ghost Town, Guo-Qiang has created an environment where three African Sulcata tortoises roam freely on a section of natural turf similar to local grasslands. With iPads mounted to their backs, the tortoises feature video footage of three local ghost towns, which were filmed by the creatures themselves. Forgotten stories of the once prosperous ghost towns are retold from the tortoises' perspective.

The Aspen Art Museum is a contemporary art museum that provides a platform for artists to present their artistic vision with a freedom of expression. That free expression can take many forms, and it is not the Museum's practice to censor artists. Cai Guo-Qiang's installation features three African Sulcata Tortoises which were rescued from a breeder where they were living in an over-crowded enclosure. The three are being closely monitored, cared for, checked by a local veterinarian at regular intervals, and are being exhibited in consultation with the Turtle Conservancy. Following the end of the exhibition on October 5, the tortoises will find new homes in conservation and educational facilities selected in collaboration with the Turtle Conservancy.

Cai Guo-Qiang: Tortoises

Cai Guo-Qiang's installation Moving Ghost Town consists of three African Sulcata Tortoises named Big Bertha, Gracie Pink Star, and Whale Wanderer. Friendly, good-natured, and adaptable, the African Sulcata Tortoise is the third-largest species of tortoise and a popular pet.

Working closely with local veterinarian Dr. Liz Kremzier on health concerns and with the internationally acclaimed Turtle Conservancy on husbandry issues, the Aspen Art Museum arranged for the transport of the tortoises to Aspen and constructed a habitat that promotes and safeguards sustained health and comfort. The ideal temperature for the tortoises is 85 - 105ºF during the day. The tortoise habitat provides a variety of temperatures to give the tortoises the option of where they want to be, including lots of natural sunlight, radiant heating panels, and heated rocks. The tortoises are very strong and active and when the temperature gets too cold for them, they will self-regulate by lying in the sun or on the heating pad in their enclosure. Unfiltered natural sunlight is the ideal scenario for the tortoises and fifteen minutes of natural sunlight is equivalent to more than eight hours of indoor incandescent light. The habitat allows the tortoises plenty of space to roam and explore. African Sulcata Tortoises eat a diet of vegetables, grasses, and herbaceous plants, and trained museum staff members provide the tortoises with a salad of mixed greens and vegetables every day.

Each of the three tortoises carries an iPad in the installation, showcasing footage of their experience in Colorado. The iPad adds negligible weight for the tortoise to support: their thick, sturdy legs accommodate their own weight and, during mating, upwards of 150 extra pounds. The use of the iPad and its mounting method is a reduced version of the method employed by scientists and researchers who study the animals in the wild. The silicone material is noninvasive and removes easily and cleanly without damaging the tortoise's shell. It is common practice to use this particular silicone to attach research tracking devices in the wild. It is the most benign method to track animals in the wild. The mounting system is designed purposely to keep the iPads at a distance from their shell and does not impede their growth.

Weekly visits by the museum's local veterinarian along with constant monitoring by the museum staff will ensure that Big Bertha, Gracie Pink Star, and Whale Wanderer remain healthy and comfortable. At the close of the exhibition, they will find new homes in conservation and educational facilities selected in consultation with the Turtle Conservancy.

The African Sulcata Tortoise is native to the southern edge of the Sahara, from Senegal east through Mali, Niger, Chad, the Sudan, and Ethiopia. The tortoise population is rapidly disappearing, and the animals are endangered in the wild. However, removing turtles and tortoises from the wild has not only endangered the existence of the animals in their native habitat, but has also resulted in overbreeding of the African Sulcata Tortoise in captivity. Contrary to popular belief, breeding tortoises does not help the wild population but actually hurts the species. These tortoises were rescued from a breeder in Arizona who kept eighteen tortoises in a space smaller than the AAM habitat and actively promoted their sale. This exhibition helped facilitate the removal of three tortoises from a breeder.