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May 9, 2009

Spring Antics

Spring is definitely here. Flowers are blooming, grass is green again but there is another distinct sign of spring: Frankie is practicing his sexual prowess. Tortoise owners accept this annual (and sometimes year around) parade of sexuality much better than human parents do with their kids. Human parents hesitating to explain the birds or bees would be much less accommodating with sexual experiments of their children. Tortoise owners deal with it and often in a big way.

Whether Frankie was a boy or a girl I just didn't know when I first got him. Sex determination of a young tortoise even fools the experts: most suggest waiting two to three years before trying. So Frankie was given the name "Frankie" because "Frankie" could go for a male or a female which ever Frankie was.

Frankie's sex was guessed to be a boy about his third year. On the bottom of the shell in the back (there are scientific names for all this but why alienate anyone) part of the shell sticks out -- in the same position as the tail. The chutes (individual shell parts) on a boy look like a "V" and the chutes on a girl look like a "U". It seemed pretty evident that Frankie was a boy.

Within a year he proved it.

On this particular day Frankie was soaking in a large bucket of water. While I was watching him soak he stood up on all four of his legs stretching them as far as he could until he was on his tippy toes. I kid you not. What happen next was something out of science fiction.

Some horrible purplish pinkish thing came flooding out of his vent (rear end) like the monster who jumped out of the huge eggs on the first Alien movie. I nearly screamed. But being a long time reptile keeper I have seen a lot of strange things come out of vents. It's just this one did look like an alien. [:eek]

Frankie, whom I would assume to be in massive pain from his guts spilling from his rear end instead seemed to be having the time of his life. A prouder tortoise I have never seen.

A few seconds of complete horror turned to sanity and I was able to reason out what was going on. Really I had been warned but the warning was not graphic enough to explain what I just seen.

Frankie was a boy and he was displaying for the world to see his (grimace - do I dare write it) penis.

So let's return to the current spring season and an animal's natural interest in "the birds and the bees". This last week Frankie's spring fever has taken turned his interest for potential "mates". I don't have any large female tortoise for Frankie and have no intention of introducing him to any mates. But that does not stop Frankie. He explores the yard for potential substitutes.

So far he has selected a large bolder, a log, a plastic dish and a large section of bamboo for his afternoon romps complete with loud grunting. Luckily these items are normally out of direct sight from our weather camera. Otherwise Frankie would be entertaining the world with his antics.

But it doesn't stop him from embarrassing me in front of the neighbors and their children. No doubt Frankie's exercise in manhood later brings up questions when the kids return home. I just don't know how a parent could ever explain the reproductive organ of a male tortoise. Maybe they just tell their kids that along with geckos and turtles the nice lady down the street (that would be me) also keeps aliens.

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