Little did Joe and Nikki know that when they moved up there, they, like my wife and I, would adopted a tortoise as a pet. And I would bet my Bionic Man action figure, that they are now regretting that decision. Don’t get me wrong. I love Ed, our African Sulcata Tortoise. I’m sure they love theirs as well. But what will happen to either one of our prehistoric pets when we move on from this land will become a real issue when our children’s children pass away?
It’s not uncommon knowledge that tortoises live a long time. Like a really, really long time. Given the right elements and care, they can live up to well let’s just say no one has lived long enough to really know. I heard there’s a tortoise who is older than the Eiffel Tower. He is somewhere back East and apparently witnessed the Civil War. So, when I bemoan about what my heirs are going to do with Ed, it’s a legit concern.
Thankfully, there is the Turtle Conservancy, a 501(c)3 organization that is “dedicated to protecting threatened turtles and tortoises and their habitats worldwide, and to promoting their appreciation by people everywhere.”
The organization's work encompasses five programmatic areas: species conservation, protecting wild lands, research science, global awareness and education, and illegal trade prevention. From Mexico to South Africa to Hong Kong and Ojai, the Turtle Conservancy has help breed and reintroduce countless creatures into the world where they can ultimately thrive.
Surrounded by the Topatopa Mountains to the north and Sulphur Mountain to the south, the property is owned and operated by filmmaker, entrepreneur, conservationist, and herpetophile Eric Goode. On a 5-acre oasis, the conservancy is home to 900 turtles and tortoises from 32 species. Considered one of the premiere facility for breeding critically endangered turtles and tortoises in the world, “The Turtle Conservancy was the first organization to ever send critically-endangered captive-bred turtles back to their native range country.”
Every now and then a hawk or falcon will circle our backyard. I suspect they are interested in Ed. I’m not sure what one might do if it tried to lift him, he’s a good 20lbs. But seeing these predators swoop down for a closer look reminds me of how turtles and tortoises are really the most threatened group of vertebrates on the planet. Which is crazy to think because they have predated humans by about 220 million years.
I know that cartoons and children’s stories always make the tortoise a kind of slow and sleepy creature. But in reality, or by what I’ve observed with Ed, is that they’re pretty quick on their feet. He is also very affectionate. When he sees me he will walk to me, probably looking for food. Speaking of which, Ed is a fantastic lawn mower, and absolutely loves dandelions. His bowel movements are impressive to say the least. But enough about Ed.
As it turns out, different turtles and tortoises each have very specific environments in which they will thrive. Vegetation, humidity and temperature all play a crucial role in their survival. “One greenhouse mimics the cloud forests at the top of the Thai mountains, another parodies the lowlands of Southeast Asia. Yet another simulates the arid climates in Namibia and South Africa.”
The goal of the Turtle Conservancy is, of course, to breed these critically endangered creatures which many of its residents are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group’s “Top 40 Most Endangered” list. Across the globe, turtles are depicted as easygoing, patient, and wise creatures. “Due to their long lifespan, they are an emblem of longevity and stability in many cultures around the world.”
“Their magnificence, though, makes them a coveted human target. Turtle and tortoise populations face a threefold threat of extinction: the pet trade, opportunistic consumption and traditional folk medicinal practices. Some species of tortoise sell for up to 200 thousand dollars on the Black Market.”
It seems crazy to me that someone would want to hurt Ed for his shell. While he could fetch some good money, I couldn’t even entertain the idea without getting nauseous. Ed is a part of our family now. And yes, he will be for a very, very, very long time.
Thanks to the great work done by this amazing organization, I now know Ed will have plenty of friends to be with him, for a very, very, very long time too.
Click this link to make a donation to the Turtle Conservancy