Monday, May 23, 2011


So, a few days ago Janice spotted a story about a Turtle Show at a nursery up in Shoreline on Sunday the 22nd. We had Book Group later that afternoon,* but given my fondness for turtles,** we decided to make the time to swing by and meet the turtles.

It was an interesting show. Finding the nursery (Skyway Nursery on Aurora, a huge sprawling place) was easy compared to finding the turtle room within it, but we persisted and at length prevailed. The turtles and tortoises, displayed in tubs (and, for the water-turtles, in tanks) on tables, most with "do not touch" signs, ranged from a number of exotics from Madagascar and Afghanistan to some Texas Box Turtles. They even had a large (135 lb) Sulcafa tortoise*** whose enclosure you could enter to pet the tortoise (on its shell and legs, not the head). He was quite a mellow fellow, alert but calm.

Also impressive was the snapping turtle who, as Janice pointed out, looked like an alligator with a shell (here they'd not relied on signs but put him in a tank with a solid lid between him and clueless wd-be-petters).**** Several former pets ("rescue turtles") were marked by how alert they were, constantly looking around and making eye contact. Some turtles who'd survived ghastly injuries were there to testify to turtle tenacity and toughness. But I may have been most impressed with the baby turtles at the last table we visited -- the youngest of which (tiny little black turtles) had hatched just the day before. The adult musk turtles there looked exactly like mossy rocks when viewed from above, while the babies reminded me of the little turtles we had as pets when I was a kid, before the selling of baby turtles at dime stores was outlawed (around 1970/71, I think). I even recognized one particular little grey turtle (a Texas Box or Pond Turtle) as the same type as one we had (Swifty, I think his name was). The oldest turtle there was at least fifty and might well live to be a hundred -- meaning that, like a parrot, this is a "legacy pet" that you have to make plans for in case it outlives you.

I got the impression that these turtle-owners rather disapprove of people having turtles as pets, believing that turtles shd be in the hands of people like themselves -- a distinction that wasn't immediately obvious to an outsider like myself. Certainly the exotic-pets trade has done terrible thing to turtle and tortoise populations (one owner said that his tortoise was territorial, so that if expatriated back to Afghanistan it'd spend the rest of its life wandering in search of its original territory), but I'm sympathetic to people having pets, so long as they take good care of them (which was definitely an issue in some of these cases).

In any case, it was great to see a bunch of turtles for an hour or so, and I'd gladly go again. The group hosting the event has a website here:

--following the button "Other Links" shows a lot of interesting-looking sites I haven't yet had time to follow up on, while the "Upcoming Events" button revealed the news, which I'd not heretofore suspected, that today (Monday the 23rd) is "World Turtle Day". So, go out and pet a turtle today, or at least think good turtle thoughts.

--John R.

current audiobook: THE PICKWICK PAPERS
current book: WATERSHIP DOWN (re-reading), PLAYER'S HANDBOOK (1st ed AD&D).

*to discuss WATERSHIP DOWN, one of my all-time favorite fantasy novels (I rank it in my Top Ten). Most of the others didn't think much of it, but we had an enjoyable meeting nonetheless, with both our hosts' cats coming out to join us (the gregarious Max and the usually shy Maya). No sign of the Rapture, though two folks we'd expected to show up never made it . . .

**there's a reason one of my nicknames is "Turtle Man"

***the largest continental turtle, it turns out, and third largest overall

****having rescued snapping turtles who were trying to cross roads on three occasions in the past, I can testify that they're v. difficult to handle safely if you don't know what you're doing.


N.E. Brigand said...

Thanks for mentioning the Sulcata Tortoise, or African Spurred Tortoise, which I had never heard of. Wikipedia says it's not the third-largest turtle but rather the third-largest tortoise; it reaches weights of up to 150 lbs., while the Galápagos Giant Tortoise has been measured at a weight of 880 lbs. and the Aldabra Giant Tortoise occasionally grows to 800 lbs. However, specimens of the Alligator Snapping Turtle have been recorded at 250 lbs., and some sea turtles are even larger: the Hawksbill Sea Turtle (280 lbs.), Green Sea Turtle (700 lbs.), Loggerhead Sea Turtle (1,200 lbs.), and above all the Leatherback Sea Turtle, topping out at 2,000 lbs.

Wurmbrand said...

Speaking of turtles, do you have anything to say about Edmond Hamilton's story about turtle men on the moon -- a story Warren Lewis might have read?