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John Levell - Trustee

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Born in Chicago in 1956, John P. Levell has had a lifelong fascination with all amphibians and reptiles, although chelonians have always been his favorites. In fact, his mother claims that even as a toddler “little Johnny would insist that oddly shaped stones were turtles and that continuing their walks without first retrieving these objects proved impossible due to his incessant screaming and crying.” Not surprisingly, this early interest in the so-called “lower vertebrates” led to a seemingly endless parade of herpetological pets passing through the Levell home. This alone speaks volumes on the patience of John’s mother, since she dislikes all snakes intensely.


Among the very first of these reptilian houseguests, was the typical assortment of hatchling turtles then available via Chicago’s five and dimes. Like just about all of these unfortunate critters, John’s first turtles rapidly declined and died. Since the time of his initial failures, however, Levell has continued his education into the proper care of chelonians and today considers himself “fairly proficient” at raising hatchling turtles to maturity. He freely admits, however, that there is still much about these fascinating animals that remains to be learned. Active participation in groups like the World Chelonian Trust, John believes, is perhaps the best way to further one’s knowledge of turtles and tortoises.


John along with his wife Connie currently live in Lanesboro, Minnesota, where they maintain a sizeable menagerie of living chelonians as well as assorted other reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Favored chelonian species include North and Central American Wood Turtles, Gator and Common Snappers, Mud and Musk Turtles, Box Turtles (genus Terrapene), and various African Tortoises. Among the latter are four adopted Geochelone sulcata including “A.J. Foyt,” a male weighing in excess of 50 pounds. Apparent real suckers for the “homeless ones,” Connie and John are also the proud foster parents of two relatively large Burmese Pythons as well as “Worf,” a twelve year old, six-foot plus Green Iguana.


Co-founders of NorthStar Herpetological Associates, Connie and John actively participate in chelonian field research and conservation projects as well. For the past several years their research activities have focused largely on Blanding’s Turtle, Emydoidea blandingii, both at home in Minnesota and elsewhere in the Midwestern United States. These projects have been supported in part by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Nature Conservancy of Minnesota. NorthStar is also in the process of establishing the “Turtle and Tortoise Book Shop,” which specializes in new and used literature of particular relevance to the study and/or captive care of chelonians on a worldwide basis.


In addition to his other activities, John is also a frequent contributor to a number of local, national and international wildlife periodicals. While chelonians and other herpetological topics form the bulk of these contributions, John’s work overall covers a diverse array of natural history topics. Other writing credits include two editions of A Field Guide to Reptiles and the Law, and the color illustrated guide 101 Familiar Birds of the Root River State Trail and Adjacent Southeastern Minnesota, which was released in early 2002. As if not enough already, Levell is also a "certified member in good standing" of the somewhat exclusive club know affectionately to its members as the Toxic Shock Society, having the dubious distinction of discovering first hand (his left) exactly which end of a rattlesnake bites! - World Chelonian Trust                 Return to Biographies


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