Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: September 2009



September 21, 2009

A Pet Rock is Better

"If I had wanted to raise a sulcata tortoise in Seattle-like weather, I would have moved to Seattle!" So I said to Greg a few days ago.

"It's colder there." He says.

When you own a 70 pound sulcata is there a difference? ….we will get back to this.

Alabama makes for a fine place to own a sulcata. We have lots of sun - summer through winter - and a mid to high amount of humidity. For a captive bred sulcata this is really about perfect. They are, after all, from the sub-Sahara semi-arid areas of Africa. Contrary to the general public, this is not desert. Sulcata get a good deal of humidity during the rainy season or they provide their own humidity in their underground burrows -- they pee and poop where they live.

This means they do not like it wet. In fact, if I had to describe the humidity they like I would have to say it's like what a good violin needs: humidity from 30% - 40%. Alabama can do this easily, with some extra humidity to boot which seems to benefit the captive bred sulcata over its family still in the wilds of Africa.

But 60% to 100% relative humidity for three weeks is going to far! And more than 6" of rain in a month when Alabama should only have less than 5"! Nearly 80% cloud coverage all month! And we have more than a week left to the month.

And Frankie is miserable.

Makes me miserable too.

Frankie had his last invited public appearance this last weekend at the Leeds Downtown Folk Festival. Anticipating really hot weather, we only planned on Saturday morning until it was impopssible to keep Frankie outside walking on asphalt. Instead, on Saturday Frankie shows up rain drenched.

Silly us, we thought this may be a good thing. He would not run crazy through the street knocking down art exhibit and little children. And we were right. He was slow with no interest in terrorizing anyone. Instead he spend the entire time attempting to walk under cars where some remaining engine warmth was beckoning him in for some comfort.


Lifting a cold 70 pound sulcata back into the car was no easy task. If you are interested in owning a sulcata and can't accomplish this task, maybe a pet rock would be a better choice for the family.

When we got home (again lifting a cold 70 pound sulcata out of the car) the choice was put him outside where sulcata should be for the summer which is what I preferred. Or, I could give into those puffy cold pleading eyes crying to mommy "Where is my sun? What have I done that is so bad that you've taken my sun away for two weeks."

So I lead my cold, slow, wet, 70 pound sulcata into the gecko room. Drag out stored away a livestock heating pad and a ceramic heater. Set it up for Frankie. Go outside in the rain (big fat rain drops) and cut a bag full of grass, weeds and clover. Bring the wet greens back to Frankie who is finally snuggling under his warm lamp and sitting on his warm pad.

Frankie looks up to me with those deep back round eyes. Am I mistaken or is he saying "Awe, Mom, you are so wonderful to me. I love you."

Sure he does, delivering two steamy poops right on cue.

If you live in Seattle, I recommend a pet rock. If you just got tears in your eyes over a couple of poops and think owning a 70 pound bag of cement sounds like fun, go adopt a sulcata. I got tears in my eye too but I think it was from the steam off the poop.

September 12, 2009

What Comes First

Frankie had visitors last weekend….well, actually we had visitors this last weekend. But no one visits our house without some time spent with Frankie. It's just a house rule.

With great hopes for a nice weekend, Greg and I made plans for our two young guest that would include time in the gecko room (their intended purpose for visit), a tourist type outing for out-of-town visitors, a great dinner at a nice restaurant, and taking Frankie for walk.

Taking Frankie for a walk, after all, has to be the highlight of anyone's visit to my house. Well, maybe I project my own enthusiasm for Frankie on other people. Who knows.

It had been wet and dreary most of the week before our guests arrived on Friday night. Falicia and Stephanie (our guests) re-assured us that spending the entire day cleaning gecko enclosures and feeding the group of 200 would be super. I think to myself that surely two young ladies just about to hit their 20's would be amused elsewhere.

Like taking Frankie for a walk.

Could I be wrong?

Saturday morning rolls around early and I am up making coffee and Belgian Waffles and serving orange juice. The rain hasn't slowed down all night so I am thinking of alternative plans. Frankie still needs a walk. So I tell the young girls we are going to take Frankie to Petco for a walk. I think they think I am crazy.

After breakfast the bunch of us load Frankie into the car and head out to Petco. It is still wet and rainy. Greg drops us off in front of Petco and then leaves to park the car.

All this time I am forgetting that the Frankie has yet to warm up. There is no sun. He did not get into the house for a warm up. We have simply dragged the poor cold tortoise to Petco and expect him to have some fun walking around. Cold tortoises don't walk around. Cold tortoises are not in the mood for any fun.

Frankie takes ten minutes to get into the front door and past the first aisle of pet goods. Another ten minutes for him to walk to the reptile area. Ten more minutes to get to the dog food aisle. Twenty more minutes to get back to the front of the store. Are we having fun yet?

So we load the unhappy, still cold Frankie back into the car and take him home.

The ladies made a bee-line into the gecko room to prepare to feed geckos and clean enclosures. Greg and I carry Frankie into the gecko room where he can finely get a warm up. Frankie obediently heads to his box of paper. I switch on his heat lamp. Frankie gives me the "it's about time, woman" look.

The young ladies and I spend the next four hours doing gecko chores that are impossible to do without help (that is a whole other gecko blog, I will just skip that).

Frankie was completely happy sitting in his box of paper soaking up the rays from his heat lamp. After all, this is what should have been first!

Later that night we take the young ladies to a great original pizza place for dinner. We return home and spend another couple hours in the gecko room doing chores. Frankie decides this time he will spend some time under foot. I was okay with his stomping around the gecko room this time since I really messed up his day by forgetting to warm him up before any walking activities.

Falicia and Stephanie seem happy spending time with the geckos even if it involved work. I was happy to get some serious help with some rather frantic geckos. Frankie was irritated at the whole ordeal.

Really I am glad Frankie lacks English skills. I take admonishment a little too hard especially when it comes from family members.