Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Or maybe it's Turtle-ly. Whatever it is, it's what we call our African Spur Thigh Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata). Although we don't know if "he" is a boy or girl, we refer to him as "he". We got him unexpectedly in December 2003 knowing only that he needed heat and veggies:

Being totally un-prepared for him (as I mentioned, he was an unexpected gift), Turtly lived in a cardboard box filled with towels in the kitchen by a heating vent until we could properly outfit him with a tank, heat rock and heat lamp. We had to chop up even the smallest of veggies so he could eat them.

So cute!!!

Now, eight years later, and still a strictly indoor pet (except on very sunny hot summer days when we let him roam around outside), he's much, much larger - but probably still small for his age since he is kept indoors.

The neighborhood kids love to gather around to watch him...especially when he's roaming around the living room floor.

He's given us some scares like the time he pulled over my Christmas Cactus and ate the entire top off. We were just about completely packed up for our move when we let him roam around the almost empty sunroom. He pulled over the Christmas Cactus pot and went to town! I didn't know if it would make him sick or not and we had a cross country trip to make with him a couple days later...

Once I took the cactus (or what was left of it) from him, he looked so upset. As it turns out, he wasn't affected at all. By the way, those floor tiles are 12" x 12" so you can get an idea how big he was in October 2010.

Turtly helping me out by disposing of the leftover cauliflower pieces from an entire head of cauliflower.
Now days, he is basically my garbage disposal. I had been thinking about getting a worm composting bin but I give almost all my veggie garbage to Turtly - I'm afraid any worms in the worm compost would starve! He takes care of all the celery tops, carrot ends, broccoli stems, and cabbage cores, etc. He might stop and rest on his heat rock for a bit in the middle of the meal, but he goes right back to finishing his meal. He definitely doesn't like to waste his veggies!

I just had to write about Turtly because although he isn't as playful as a dog or warm and cuddly like a cat, he is quite a conversation starter, he does entertain us (especially when he decides to pee all over people trying to pick him up) and we enjoy having him as part of our family. And since African Spur Thigh Tortoises can grow to be 80 years old, he might even outlive us!

Note: We do also have 2 African Dwarf Frogs that we acquired from Tristan's 3rd grade science class and a cat named "Dingle".

Update 4/29/2013: We learned late summer 2012 that this tortoise actually thrives more on a diet of weeds and if necessary, can be fed foods such as Kale or greens during the months when outdoor access is unavailable. The diet we were feeding him causes the pyramiding of this shell. Now we let him roam the back yard on warm sunny days eating all the dandelions he wants. 

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