A video of a massive snapping turtle dubbed “Chonkosaurus” is going viral—for good reason. The video was posted to Twitter by Joey Santore. It shows a particularly chunky snapping turtle basking on some old chains in the Chicago River while Santore paddles by.
Santore is a YouTuber, who calls his media strategy a “Low-Brow, Crass Approach to Plant Ecology & Evolution as muttered by a Misanthropic Chicago Italian.” He is a self-taught botanist and his channel is dubbed “Crime Pays but Botany Doesn’t.” Santore’s thick Chicago accent and unique approach to botany — expletives included — have won him a devoted following and over 800,000 views in this most recent video. Be aware: The video includes swearing.
“How you doing’ guy, you look good! You’re healthy.” exclaims Santore in the video. “Oh my God, that’s a massive turtle.”
Chicago River Snapper aka Chonkosaurus. Great to see this beast thriving here on what was once such a toxic river, but is slowly getting cleaned up & restored. Somebody planted a bunch of native plants up the river from here, too. I can only wonder this things been eating. pic.twitter.com/u6bhlpo4p5
— Joey Santore (@JoeySantore) May 6, 2023
Jokes aside, Chonkosaurus may be a sign of improved health for the Chicago River. “This thing was obviously very ecologically successful here,” Santore told NBC News. “It was thriving, and finding plenty to eat. I didn’t expect to see that so close to downtown Chicago. And there was another one there too.”
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Since the passage of the Clean Water Act and substantial efforts by non-profits and government agencies, the water quality of the Chicago River has improved—and wildlife seems to have been returning to it.
According to the New York Times, the turtle is likely a 50-year-old, 40-pound, female. A wildlife biologist suspects she was “loaded with eggs.” The species can weigh up to 60 pounds. “[It’s] great to see this beast thriving here on what was once such a toxic river, but is slowly getting cleaned up and restored,” Santore wrote in his Tweet. “Somebody planted a bunch of native plants up the river from here, too. I can only wonder [what] this thing’s been eating.”