Sunday, January 26, 2014

Little Joe

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If you have known me for any length of time, you know I am a nurturer and thrive on having a lot of life around me. Turtles and tortoises have been in my heart since I learned of their plight to survive when I was a teen while working with a conservation group. I have kept turtles for decades, but have never had a tortoise...until Amanda encouraged me to take the leap...

I adopted my Sulcata tortoise from an airman who was suddenly deployed to the UAE. It was not only to an opportunity to get a type of tortoise I have always wanted to raise, but also an opportunity to help a military family during a stressful time. It was also a privilege to thank an airman in person for his service to our country. 

Sulcatas are the third largest tortoise in the world. They can get to be 200 lbs. Sulcatas can be trained and will follow people around like a dog. They are gentle creatures with humans, but will battle each other for territory. They like to have their heads and shell stroked too. 

I named my 3 month old baby Sulcata "Little Joe" after a war dog that lost his life alerting his platoon to the enemy waiting to ambush them. Our Little Joe will live indoors until he (or she) is about 5 years old. I am already training Little Joe to come to me when I call him.

We are calling it a "he" since it is almost impossible at this point to predict gender. After Little Joe gets too large for living indoors, we will construct an outdoor yard and heated house. Sulcatas are desert tortoises, but they do quite well all over the United States as long as they have a heated place to go in the winter. 

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Little Joe is next to the log hide. The other tortoise visible is a newly acquired marginated tortoise that is about a year old. It was passed along by overwhelmed new parents who could not take care of her any longer. I named her Missy after another war dog.

Right now, Little Joe, who is very tiny and weighs around 2.5 ounces (when I made this post in Nov), lives on a "tortoise table" in our spare room. I love watching him eat. They eat mostly grasses in fresh or dried (hay) form. Since he is resistant to eating the hay, I chop it very fine and mix it with pumpkin (Vit A) and a calcium and D3 supplement. We supplement with fresh greens and a very infrequent bite of fruit. (Fruit is not very good for them.) He LOVES dandelions! I have to soak him in shallow water daily to keep him healthy. Most baby tortoises die from dehydration because people mistakenly think they need dry conditions because they are desert animals. I weigh him every couple of weeks to make sure he is heading in the right direction.

Before we took on the responsibility for Little Joe from the soldier, we spoke to our children to make sure at least one of them will step up to take care of him after I die. The tortoise will likely outlive me, and I want to make sure he is well cared for. All of them said they would step forward to claim Little Joe or one our other turtles/tortoises.