Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: November 2013



November 25, 2013


There is so much to say about Frankie.  He has a personality as big as Siberia.  He is always surprising me.

Oh, sometimes those surprises are outright stinky, messy, and destructive.  Still Frankie has a friendly side that says, "Hey, I love you mom".  Of course, a carrot in hand always helps.

The man-ly side of Frankie as he blooms into his teen years can be down right embarrassing, albeit a bit educational as he humps anything that resembles.....well, I was about to say a female tortoise but Frankie will hump anything he can hold down long enough to climb on top of.

So is it educational or embarrassing?  It's both.

Watching a recent video of Frankie getting better acquainted with a pumpkin I was looking at how he used his front gular scutes to glide up on the pumpkin so he could (do I have to say it again?) hump it.  I watched the video several times fascinated with the use of his front scutes.

Male sulcata scutes are useful for ramming.  But clearly, as seen on the video, use of the gular scutes is important to successful mating.

So I called a friend and sent the video to her and get her opinion.  Not five minutes go by when she called back and said, "Look at the video again.  Frankie is a regular Casanova."

Oh, my.  Surprise!


Click to view video:  Frankie Woos a Pumpkin

November 20, 2013

A Mammoth Move

It was mammoth, monumental.  A tear-jerker....Frankie hadn't even got in the car yet.

The story really began when Frankie was evicted from the Frankie Cave a couple of days before we departed from home.  The day was nice so Frankie sat up on the hill watching his beloved cave get gutted and cleaned.  

A family of 150 Southern Cockroaches was evicted from inside his cave.  The colony of fat snails gathered from under the cave was fed to the two box turtles.  

Frankie's compost barrel was cleaned out reveling hundreds of red wigglers worms.  Frankie's friend, Little Dude, got worms enough for a couple of weeks.

If I had known Frankie was this good at raising bugs I would have stopped buying insects years ago.  

Frankie was slated to sleep that night in the garage in his dogloo.  It took forever to get Frankie inside because he thought the dogloo was for ramming.  

That same evening Greg departed with Frankie's cave to the new house in Mobile.

The next morning Frankie woke up at 7:00 am.  Not just awake but Frankie insisted on walking around the garage full of boxes and stuff.  Then he demanded entrance into the gecko room.  I had to accompany him as there were boxes of glass enclosures sitting on the floor.  Frankie pushed boxes aside and wandered about.  

At 10:00 am Frankie went back into his dogloo and went to sleep.  Okay.  This is new.  Wake up at seven and asleep by ten.  What is he going to do on Moving day?

....which started at 7:00 am the next day.  Two moving vans, five loaders and the driver.  The first job for the movers was inventory and tagging:  1 lawn mover, 1 washer, 1 dryer, 1 HUGE TORTOISE...WHAT IS THIS!? ...ARE WE MOVING IT!?    No, sir, but when it’s time to load the dogloo would you mind helping me put the tortoise in the car. I would appreciate it.

I am sure this guy has seen a lot of strange things over the years in houses but he looked at me like I had won the Blue Ribbon of strange-things-we've-moved.  I warned the movers a week ago.  When I say “big turtle” they always think big box turtle. "Oh, sure, we'll help you move that turtle. Sure."  I think he was hoping Frankie was an ice cube and would shrink to box turtle size in the next four hours.

As the temperatures increased over the next couple of hours I kept close eye on that dogloo in case Frankie made a daring escapee down the street or decided to pee all over the garage.  You know what he did?

Nothing.  Not a single thing.  He would look to see what was going on then he would go back to sleep for a couple of hours.  At 2:00 pm. When it was time to load the dogloo do you know what Frankie did?  Nothing.  We took him out and put him on the garage floor and he sat there. 

While Frankie sat there doing nothing everyone took pictures with him. 

It has not escaped my attention that Frankie has not pooped or pee-d all day.  I just knew he was saving it for the car.

After the movers departed, Frankie, Newt the cat, and I left about four in the afternoon. 

It was awful.  The smell, the non-stop noise, constant scratching, and then the poop.  Horrifying! 

“Settle Down!  Quit Moving Around!  Oh, my stars!  Did you just poop, AGAIN?”

I will never travel with a cat ever again. 

What was Frankie doing?  Nothing.  Frankie slept the entire way to Mobile.  For a Frankie story it was rather disappointing.

When we got to Mobile we put Frankie right into his warm waiting cave.

We didn't see Frankie for three whole days.  He refused to come out of his cave.  The weather was nice enough for two of those days.  Only one day was rainy. 

On the third day I had to go check to see if Frankie was still alive.  He was alive but he was still in the same position from three days ago:  nose firmly against the back corner so no one could see him.

Maybe he had broken his leg and couldn't move.

So I dragged his huge self out of the cave and into his new yard. 

It was a scene out of Tortoises Gone Wild:  what’s this, can I eat this, what’s this, is this a fence, let’s see if I can push it over, look they brought my girlfriend, is this grass, who is this person, move out of my way, look a tree branch, it could be edible, where is that rabbit I was promised, this post doesn't look so strong so I could probably push it over, is this the wall of the house, need to see if I can push this over, this corner looks like a nice place to start digging, what’s this, is there anything under this bush, I think I will eat the leaves, maybe the house siding is edible, let’s see if I can move this cement mixer, I could crush this rake, let’s try pushing the fence over one more time, dogloo is for ramming…….

Still there are boxes to unpack, a kitchen to set-up, beds to be made, services to set-up, new neighbors to meet.

All that will wait.  Watching Frankie discover his new world is much more rewarding.

(Pictures will follow once I find and unpack the computer with the photo software.)

November 7, 2013

Frankie, Purgatory and the Smog in China

Seven days until Frankie's Big Move.

If you've been counting you'll notice it's seven days and not three days due to one little word not appearing on one piece of paper of many, many, many papers to close our new house in Mobile.  That's right. The closing of our house was cancelled at the last minute because Greg's name didn't appear on an insurance paper that had NOTHING to do with ownership of a house.

Yes, I am in House Closing Purgatory.  

Poor Frankie was the primary victim of one little word.   Once we closed on the planned Friday date we would promptly run to Lowe's and buy fence posts and cement and for an entire weekend put up Frankie's new privacy fence.  The completion of said fence would take the entire week but those all important fence posts needed the attention and dedication of four persons.  Once posts are up the pickets could be completed during the week after everyone got off work.

In the mean time I would be back in Birmingham packing and preparing Frankie for the big move.

That everything would work like the Boulder, Colorado's Atomic Clock is denying the very real existence of House Closing  Purgatory.  Closing was postponed to Monday.  

So Frankie's Fence was not going to get done in time.  Four adults of which only one is a Frankie Expert try to decide on a solution.

My favorite is the one where Frankie will live in our friends's screened porch for five to seven days.  

If that idea didn't cause you to drop to the floor and laugh your arse off then you don't currently own or have ever owned a 100 pound sulcata tortoise.  

Another idea involved putting up a temporary metal fence.


I guess the thing that is hardest for people to understand is what a 100 pound sulcata tortoise will do once he topples the metal fence like it's tooth picks. Frankie will go on a big walk.

Unlike dogs, sulcata tortoises don't stick around their neighborhood.  Sulcata tortoises don't respond to whistles to beckon them home.  Large sulcata tortoises walk until it's dark.  A Sulcata Big Walk is much farther than most people can image.  

So, I put my foot down.

In seven days time I will drive Frankie five hours from Birmingham to Mobile, all the while Frankie drops buckets of poop and gallons of pee in our small Prius automobile surrounding me in a fecal smog that will rival the near record smog in Harbon, China where visibility is less than 10 meters.

Did I mention there will be a howling cat, too?

With Frankie and large sulcata, there is no easy path:  it has to be done thinking the worse and acting to avoid it all all cost.

I wonder where I can buy a hazmat suit.