We were encouraged by the news last week of a coalition of New Jersey fourth graders who are calling on the state Assembly to honor the endangered bog turtle by making it the official state reptile. We’re proud to see these students standing up for an endangered species and recognizing and utilizing the role government plays in protecting threatened animals.

The Princeton public school students say the bog turtle’s plight has gone ignored for far too long and have been working for two years to get their bill (A-1530), sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-16th, recognized by the state government. All their hard work paid off last week when they were able to give testimony about their bill before an Assembly committee, which later advanced the bill. The bill will next go up for a vote before the full Assembly. (New Jersey residents can call their assembly members and tell them to support A-1530. An identical Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-16th, has already been approved in the Senate.) 

“We feel that the bog turtle should be New Jersey’s state reptile because it is not the state reptile in any other state,” Benjamin Murphy told state leaders, (according to a video…)

Other students voiced concerns that without more awareness and action on the bog turtle’s behalf, the tiny reptile could disappear completely.

“We estimate it to be about 2,500 to 10,000 in the whole world. If we don’t help them now or in the future, bog turtles might be on the verge of extinction,” student Anna Kauffman said.

“This project has enabled children to find their voice for a cause that they passionately support. The letters that they sent to Assemblyman Zwicker must’ve really had an impact because he has given such an enthusiastic response,” Mark Eastburn, one of the teachers who attended the hearing with the students told a local news station. “Children were thrilled to meet him during a school visit last October, and we are so happy that students can see politicians come together and cooperate in supporting this bipartisan bill.”

Check out the student’s Assembly testimony below.