Monday, August 22, 2005

Slow and steady...

As I was out running errands on Saturday, I saw what I thought to be man playing with his radio-controlled toy. Sure enough he was out there again on Sunday, only this time I got a better look and it definitely wasn't a toy on the sidewalk...

Tortoise Walking Photo 01
A nice long sidewalk is the perfect place to stretch the ol' legs.

That's right. It's a man taking his pet tortoise for a walk. Hey, they need exercise too right? A perfect time to do so while we're having beautifully warm temperatures (finally) in Edmonton. I stopped by with my digital camera to talk to owner Jeff Billyard about the fascinating scene and learn more about his pet.

Tortoise Walking Photo 02
Easily mistaken for a radio-controlled car from a distance.

Jeff, who graciously took a portion of his time (the tortoise wasn't racing away anywhere), told me that 'Franklin' is a 3-year-old African Spur Tortoise (or Geochelone sulcata as it's known in scientific terminology) and that he's cared for Franklin since he was smaller than the palm of his hand. Though, he wasn't a cheap purchase, Jeff and his family consider 'Franklin' to be an excellent value for a pet, who will probably live longer than most of us. Apparently, Tortoises can live an average of 60-80 years, with some living over the ripe age of 100! Astoundingly, he already weighs in at around 25 pounds but can grow up to 200!

Purchased at a city pet store, Franklin is a treasured member of the family, attracting interest from all who see the pair. Jeff said he doesn't mind the company of strangers when he's taking Franklin for a walk, and educates the guests on the difference between a tortoise and a turtle. He finds it relaxing to take Franklin for a walk after a tough day at work.

Tortoise Walking Photo 03
What some of the local (and puzzled) dogs saw.

Surprisingly, Franklin moves quite fast. Not as speedy as an average dog or cat, but at the pace of a smaller canine. He had already moved forward several feet before my camera had a chance to focus on the hard-shelled creature.

It was also quite amusing to see parents walk by and say "Ohhh, you're the man with the turtle! My son/daughter told me about you!" as if they didn't believe their children.

Tortoise Walking Photo 04
Owner Jeff Billyard and Franklin.

The tortoise is a herbivore, meaning he eats fruits and vegetables. While Jeff had fed him lettuce and strawberries when I was there, Franklin found the grass and clover patches to his liking, rapidly devouring any tiny, white blossoms.

Tortoise Walking Photo 05
Stopping for snacks...

Tortoise Walking Photo 06
...of tasty clover...yummm!

Tortoise Walking Photo 07
Franklin seems pretty content. Who couldn't love a face with a smile like that?

I got a chance to experience what Franklin's legs felt like and they are quite unique. Though the 'spurs' look rough and sharp, they're actually more like cartilage and feel rigid, yet soft. He has quite a long tongue as well with which he uses to get at vegetation.

I've seen Tortoises and Terrapins before, and even went snorkeling alongside Sea Turtles in the waters of Hawai'i, but this was certainly an interesting sight you don't see in Edmonton, Alberta everyday. A welcome change from the usual four-legged friend! Ironically, I had saved 2 frogs from death by lawnmower earlier. It would seem that reptiles and amphibians were on the universe's order of events for me that day.

You can find more about African Spur Tortoises here and here.

Note: Geochelone sulcata or 'African Spur Tortoise' is often confused with 'African Spur-thigh Tortoise.' From what I've just briefly researched, it seems that using the scientific name helps to distinguish the different reptiles.

Update: I've displayed some of the tortoise photos readers have sent me at this other posting.


60 comments:

Anonymous said...

lovely.. what a friendly looking wee chap

Shahid said...

Wow! That's so cool!

Todd said...

Very sweet photos. What a great way to meet the neighbours. If walking a cute dog gets people chatting with you, this is a sure fire way to be certain that you know everybody on your block. Thanks for posting them!

OMFG!! said...

looks cool...

rita said...

I love this tortoise so much it is making me angry... (I used to have some turtles of my own... SO much personality!)

TY said...

I don't think you're supposed to let your tortoise eat suburban grown vegetation because of pesticide hazards.

Anonymous said...

That's a bitch'n turtle, you should put some Type-R stickers on its shell

Opspin said...

Neat, but don't dogs bother it?

I guess it could just hide inside its shell!

Anonymous said...

If you run into him again let him know to add more hays and grasses with a calcium supplement to the tortoise diet and cut back on the fruits and vegetables. The pyramiding on its back indicates a dietary malnutrition and/or sunlight deficit but otherwise that's a good looking sulcata. Check out here for more information.

Anonymous said...

nobody has commented on the shortness of this man's shorts. Is this an Edmonton thing? Men who own turtles, that's just fine, but men in hotpants? I dunno.

Anonymous said...

My parents have two Sulcata and a Pardalis. They started with them ten years ago when a neighbor needed a new home for his 25 year old Sulcata.

They're great low-maintenence pets. Romaine lettuce, grasses, a little softened dog food once in a while. They don't require terrible amounts of attention, and are more than happy to just cruise around the house and yard for exercise.

That said, they can definitly be a handful. Even a half grown tortoise is big enough to jam a door closed until he feels like moving. Their longevity is something to really consider as well. My parents had to make sure the tortoises are included in their will, and have insisted whomever gets them do the same and pass them to the grand children, as the youngest Sulcata will probably not even be to her grey years by the time I'm in a nursing home. (I'm 30 now.)

Anonymous said...

Tortoises . . . Yummy! I'm thinking a crockpot some onions, carrots and potatos.

Here turtle turtle turtle!

Anonymous said...

my first reaction was: "oh my god, look at his shorts!"

probably just shows what a shallow bastard i am.

Kaede said...

Awwwww, what an adorable tortoise. As a former terrapin owner (red-eared slider), I know those things can move bloody fast. At least mine did LOL. He moved faster than I did. How I wish I had a turtle/tortoise *sighs* again.

Anonymous said...

Please please please do not feed your sulcata dog food. They are herbivores, and dog food is not appropriate.

Sulcata tortoises are not "low maintenance" tortoises. They're the third largest tortoise species in the world (behind Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises). This tortoise requires a lot of space and a lot of warm, dry weather.

If you want a tortoise, do your research. There are good links even on this page (much less from a quick Google search).

As mentioned, the sulcata in the pics has some bad pyramiding going on. And a 3 year old tortoise should not weigh 25 pounds -- my 8 year old tortoise doesn't even weigh that much. Slow growth is best.
[/rant]

signed,
a Sulcata owner in Tucson, Arizona

thatedeguy said...

Thats pretty cool. Amazing how many of the comments are from people that actually seem to know what the heck they are talking about. Even the one about the shorts...

Hudson said...

Could someone explain what "pyramiding" is, and why it is bad?

Chad Kerychuk said...

Thanks for all the hits and especially the comments guys and gals! I'll be sure to pass on any of your info to the owner of the tortoise if I see him again.

Enjoy the blog!

Allen said...

That's amusing. What's even more amusing is that I recognize that neighbourhood! Is that Crawford Plains? My family lived in that very neighbourhood for a year or so in the early '90s! I'm living in Seattle now... Small world.

Chad Kerychuk said...

Allen: It is in indeed Crawford Plains. I currently reside there but my family only returned there 5 years ago after living in the Southwest part of the city for many years.

I also went to that school when it first opened and remember how cool it was to see lofts in classrooms and a round library! Really a well designed school. Of course it all seems so 'small' now. Haha!

tvpanth said...

chad, did you get a sense at all for how emotionally responsive the little guy is? i mean, he's a tortoise, so i'm guessing not at all. but does he, say, follow his owner around, or does he just seem indifferent?

Chad Kerychuk said...

tvpanth: 'Franklin' responded to his owners voice. For instance, when he was nearing the edge of the sidewalk, some speaking from his caretaker eased him back onto the right path of the sidewalk.

I'm not sure how great the hearing is, but his vision is certainly decent. He noticed even small things quite quickly. I'm guessing he is more on the indifferent side, but seems to have some comprehension of Jeff.

JoJo the Whale said...

That's so neat. I also live in Edmonton, maybe I will run into them some day.

Turtle Ranch Honcho said...

That is a pretty good looking tortoise for living so far north. I'm impressed. The tort does have a little pyramiding (where the centers of the scutes, the individual sections of his shell, raise up in the middle), but it isn't terrible.

I had over a dozen until our house burned down in February. We have one left who weighs in right at 100#. They are much stronger than you'd think. A 30# tort can punch right through sheetrock walls.

A great place to learn about sulcatas is http://www.sulcata-station.com Or people are welcome to email me directly at tony at theturtleranch.com

Michelle said...

I have two sulcatas, a 3 year old and a hatchling. My 3 year old sulcata is not even close to being that big. If you see him again will you tell him not to feed his sulcata fruit because it does something to their stomach and that is not good. I used to feed Monty(3 year old) apples but I stopped as soon as I found out it was bad for him. And dog food has protein which is not good for sulcatas because they are herbivores. I now feed mine a diet of grass, plaintain, dandelion greens, timothy hay, orchard grass and collards. He doesn't seem to mind me not feeding him apples anymore.

Anonymous said...

Sulcata Care

mia said...

Last summer I saw a little old lady walking a large yellow and brown tortoise down 57th street in new york. She had a red ribbon tied around the shell as a leash and was trotting along like it was the most normal thing in the world.

winterdoll said...

that is just the cutest thing i would want to experience too! walking a tortoise... yeah!

Anonymous said...

hey, that tortoise is so cute.. i love the smile.. im a huge animal person i have 2 dogs and 2 cats.. i love animals with personalties and that tortoise looks like it has a lot of personality....

D said...

Great! Another animal to add to my zoo when I own my own home someday. So far there are cats, dogs, birds, fish, horses, pigs, goats and now...tortoises! I have to stay of this internet...

Donele said...

What I think is funny is that no one has mentioned this guys shorts. What the heck was he thinking. Looks like an 80's flashback with the little bitty cut off jeans. :) LOL

Anonymous said...

Ive had a spurred tortoise for 2 yrs. Tons of personality. However it took a lot of time and vet bills to discover petland knew nothing of the animal( my tortoise) they were selling. I think the enormous size(for its age) and pyramiding is a direct result of info given by the pet store. Your own research is important with these pets.

Anonymous said...

amazing i hope he took care to place him in hiswill so he would be taken care of.

Anonymous said...

yeah that's cool and all that's he's walking his turtle but I mean the first thing I noticed were his short shorts I mean come on seriously

Anonymous said...

oh my gosh. wow. that is sooooooooooooo amazing.

Rachel said...

THATS SOO CUTE!! I love it!! :)

Shirley said...

I have three turtles. They are a different kind of turtles. This report made me realized how little do I know about my three friends. I am going to go buy me a book so I can learn everything I need to know about them A.S.A.P.

I think is very nice to see how some people actually care so much for their pets that they worry about their future 30, 40, 50 years down the road.

Paul said...

Makes me proud to be a Turtle Clan member.

rose said...

THIS IS TOTALLY AWESOME---I'VE ALWAYS LOVED TURTLES.

Anonymous said...

Actually "pyramidding" is now thought to have more to do with genetics and a hereditary disorder than lack of nutrition and lack of the proper UV lighting. While I am sure that diet and proper lighting do have an effect on pyramiding of the shell, there are new reports out that show that it is passed on genetically from parent to baby.

Rhonda said...

A very unigue and refreashing change of pace. No pun intended.

Rhonda

Anonymous said...

Cool picture. Just a guy and his tortoise hanging out. No pun intended, Well, maybe just a little. ;)

Anonymous said...

DIET DIET DIET *************
************ *******************


This little guy needs NO PROTEIN! Reduce his fruits increase his calcium intake. he should have a diet of only grasses and non protien (alf-alfa no) hay. Dark grean leafy veggies, lawn grasses and weeds are OK. Great pet, we have two! Important but challenging to take care of correctly.

Anonymous said...

Hey!! Jeff and Franklin both have great legs. Who can blame these guys for lettin' 'em show? Open your narrow little fashion-police minds and get over it!!

Kevin said...

I had a turtle like that once. Her name was Hermione, but used to call her Herman until i figured she was female. She got stolen a year ago from my backyard, where i keep her. :'(

Anonymous said...

Someone asked about the personality and I will tell you that they really do have it in spades! All of my tortoises (different ages and breeds) know my voice, follow me around, respond to having their chins rubbed and even "beg" for food! They even wake up when i walk in the room and come right to me! They are such awesome pets but are not for the those who haven't done their research...especially because, as with most reptiles, they can be sick for 6 months or more before they begin displaying symptoms at which point it maybe too late. Oh yeah, and watch out for salmonella!!

Jim said...

Hi there,
I have a pet African Spurred Tortosie in Stockton, CA. He is the coolest and not as slow movign as you'd think.
I named him, thinking of the "Tortoise and the Haire" and of the Everready Energiser Bunny, , He's Duracell.

Right on about the ZERO-PROTIEN in his diet, and you ought to go to the pet shop & get their powdered vitamins and powdered minerals to supliment. Just sprinkle a bit onto his food.

Also a strong caution about such things as apple seeds, eggplant, etc. They have traces of troxins that build up in their system.

I also have made provisions in my will . . . I am 59 and he is 5.

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Spider63 said...

cool tortoise photos! I have photos of my turtles on my blog! They are lots of fun, and they are very smart reptiles.

Anonymous said...

im sure you will all agree that tortoises are just gorgeous i had two herman tortoises when i was a small child a rag and bone man gave them to me and my brother, and they died only a few years ago when i was about 30yrs old, but now my 12yr old son has bought one and named him harvey and we just adore him, they are wonderful creatures. karen, manchester.

FairTaxGuy said...

I found this blog while searching on Aldabra giant tortoise because of the recent death of the 250 year old tortoise Addwaita.

I enjoyed your article and thought I was reading a newspaper article as well. Very well written and entertaining, I would send it (photos and all) to your local newspaper.

Very cute tortoise too, especially liked the pics of him walking and then chomping on that clover. Thanks for the article!

-FairTaxGuy
www.FairTax.org

Ken said...

I can't beat the pics of the tortoise, what a great story.

I can share with pet lovers a wonderful vet by the name of Dr. Jane who is challenging the pet food industry's use of all the remnants of the slaughterhouse industry in branded pet foods. She's created her own range of dog food and cat food.

More info on my cat site:
human quality dog and cat food

otto roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
otto roberts said...

Randomly came across this post, and funny enough, found it to be about a man in tiny shorts walking his little tortoise on some street in Edmonton. Well, I'm from Edmonton, and thought I'd say hello. Nice post--I was wondering about the little feller's bumpy legs too. ;)

Mitch said...

dude im from australia and theres no turtles there man!!!!!

Valery said...

So great idea to go for a walk with your turtle to meet your dream man!!! I'll try that!

Emily said...

He looks like my African Spurt! Although they all look very similar. But I never take mine out for walks he would go off the sidewalk to much! He's very adventurous we actually have to put up walls you can't see through or push over because if he can see the whole yard he'll do his best to get to it! We tried letting him just run around in the back yard for a few days but he likes to rearrange furniture! He walks underneath one of our lawn chairs and gets stuck so he just keeps walking. They have ended up in some pretty weird places before!

Min said...

Oh My GOD ! that is very cute picture! I wish i could have the chance to have it as my pet. But, here in my home country, its very expensive and considered as 'protected' animal. Min

Sheila said...

Hi everyone, I am from the United Kingdom, I inherited my mother's hermanns tortoise Tommy, when my dearest mother passed away last July, she is absolutely awesome, lives in a south facing garden and actually hibernates under the earth in my garden, she has never had a tortoise table or UV lights etc, and has never seen a vet. I did however introduce calcium powder and neutrabol to her diet, she munches tortoise weeds, as I bought weed seeds on eBay as I didn't have a clue which weeds a tort would like LOL, fancy buying weeds!!! A magazine here in the UK recently asked ppl to write in as they wanted to know of the oldest tortoise in the United Kingdom, as mine is 111 years old (as has been passed from generation to generation) she was found to be the oldest and featured in their magazine called Practical Reptile Keeping.

Greek tortoise said...

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