Activists are furious over a new exhibit featuring tortoises carrying iPads at the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado.
The exhibit in question, titled “Moving Ghost Town,” consists of three African Sulcata tortoises, each of which has a pair of iPads attached to its back. The iPads display videos taken in nearby ghost towns by the turtles themselves, organized by artist Cai Guo-Qiang, The Verge reports.
Opponents of the exhibit have started a Change.org petition urging the museum to put an end to what petition author Lisbeth Oden calls “animal exploitation and abuse.” The petition also demands that the museum pressure the Guo-Qiang into excluding animals from future works.
According to its website, the museum will continue with the exhibit because of an ideological commitment to expression and the inaccuracy of the petitioners’ concerns for the tortoises’ safety.
“Free expression can take many forms, and it is not the Museum’s practice to censor artists,” the museum wrote.
The site also describes the measures taken to ensure the health and comfort of the tortoises, including regulated temperatures, weekly visits from a local veterinarian and constant monitoring by museum staff. Turtle Conservancy, a prominent conservation group focused on turtles, has also given guidance throughout the project.
In an email to petitioners, Maximilian Maurer of Turtle Conservancy noted that the iPads were attached using a method also utilized when attaching research equipment, and the weight of the screens and holder did not present any significant burden to the tortoises.
“I honestly believe that these animals do not even notice the extra weight on their shells after living with the accoutrements for 24 hours,” Maurer wrote.
The tortoises in the exhibit were originally rescued from an abusive breeder and will be placed in a sanctuary following the exhibit’s end in October. However, despite assurances from experts, activists are continuing to push for the tortoises’ immediate release through the petition, which, as of this writing, has reached over 5,500 signatures.