Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: December 2010



December 19, 2010

Explain 19º to a Sulcata

Alabama, I was told, makes an idea place to raise a sulcata tortoise. It's true, but so is Mexico or Brazil. Alabama has the hot sun, good humidity levels, short winters.....but we get winters.

What a great summer it was watching Frankie in the yard. How super to see Greg start putting up Frankie's new monster shelter so Frankie could live outside this winter. How typical Greg is not quite finished with the shelter when Alabama gets winter temperature predictions of 19ºF…much too early this winter. Frankie has to come inside.

Eight hours before the temperatures began plummeting to records lows for our area, I am in a frantic scramble to prepare the gecko room for the 75 pound Frankie the gecko room-terminator. But no way am I risking Frankie to Wisconsin like temperatures. But, I must fear the turtle.

At 50 pounds, Frankie easily took down four metal aquarium stands with several hundred pounds of tanks, soil, plants, furnishing and geckos inside. At 75 pounds, I am sure our 7 foot tall shelving units are in grave danger.

In the gecko room, there is no shelter set up for Frankie. The Dogloo is outside stuffed full of hay. There is NO cardboard box big enough or tough enough to handle Frankie.

Tick, tick, tick, the hours are dropping away like the temperature outside. If I don't get Frankie inside soon, he is going to start digging his way to Honduras.

Surrendering absolutely and in real concern that the overnight temperature risks Frankie's health, and the veterinarian visits to treat a sulcata cold and the near impossibility of giving a 75 pound sulcata antibiotic injections to cure him, I start Frankie on the long walk from the backyard to the garage and into the safety of the warm gecko room.

A seventy-five pound Sulcata who is cold doesn't walk fast. They walk about as fast as the Energizer Bunny with 1% juice left in their batteries. I can't make Frankie walk any faster. I sure can't pick him up. I can't wait till 6:00 pm for hubby Greg to get home to drag Frankie inside when its already dark and 30º outside.

I just can't explain 19º F to Frankie. Sulcata tortoise just don't get it. Bribery with carrots, pumpkin, apples or any other sweet delight will not make a difference: His olfactory functions are shut down.

Only prayer is left. And groveling.

I start encouraging Frankie, urging him forward one agonizing 1/2 inch step at a time. He will be a tort-icicle at this rate. My fingers are already flesh-cubes.

Forth two minutes, seventeen and a half seconds later Frankie has finely finished his usual 8 minute walk from backyard into the gecko room. He settles on top of his electric heat pad. Yep, I managed to take the heat pad from his outdoor shelter, scrub it down with soap and water, sanitize it, dry it, place it in the gecko room and preheat it all the while Frankie was making his dramatic journey from yard to gecko room.

Frankie has little to say as he settles onto the mat and is covered with newspapers and a beach towel.

I will be in the gecko room at 7:00 am promptly in the morning to begin constructing barriers to keep Frankie from terminating the gecko room.

Will Frankie respect the barriers? Will all 200 geckos be re-located to our living room upstairs? Will the new cat ever get over the shock of seeing a 75 moving rock that smells like a zoo?

Stay tuned. I'll be back with more adventures of Frankie vs the gecko room.