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February 1, 2016

Sherlock and the Case of the Red Foot Tortoise

The Internet story of the red foot tortoise found alive in a box 32 years after it disappeared is so amusing to me that I thought I would add a bit of logic to in Sherlock Holmes logic.

Hold on to your shells. We are going to use some smarts.

The story of the turtle is a riddle that today may need a genius thinker to solve because, regretfully, a lot of people think that what they read on the internet is true. Um, let me just repeat that: a lot of people think everything on the internet is true.

A lot of Internet stories are written as enhanced reality, or something fixed up to be more interesting. But let's let Sherlock look at the facts.

A family had a red foot tortoise. It "ran away" or "disappeared." The turtle was not located nor re-appear for the rest of the time the children lived in the house. The children grow up and move out of the house. These are accepted as fact.

Other facts: Dad died. House was left to the children. House had a lot of stuff left inside. All accepted as fact.

Children clean out the house but there is no mention of any turtle husbandry equipment when they clean up the house. A neighbor makes mentions of the turtle in the trash the children toss from the house. A turtle is found mingling within boxes once inside the house.

Now, here is the jump to fiction. Child says turtle must be the one lost 32 years ago.

Sherlock would say, “Well, first, let’s look at all the facts.”

Sherlock would ask, "Where is your proof that this is the same turtle? Do you have pictures to compare it to? Did a veterinarian attest that this turtle is 32 years old? Can a herpetologist verify that this turtle is the same species you had before? Can either the veterinarian or the herpetologist verify that the turtle’s physical condition is that of a turtle that lived in a house unseen for 32 years without any care?

Sherlock would then say, "You are an idiot."

Okay, Sherlock wouldn't say the kid was an idiot. That was me saying the kid was an idiot. Sherlock would be kind and say, the turtle is not the same turtle you saw when you were a child thirty-two years ago.

“First, the children said they did not see the turtle anywhere in the house during the years they lived there with their father. Records kept on the longevity of the species Chelonoidis carbonaria ssp. estimate that they can live from 30 to 50 years, depending on scientific literature and amateur observation. It is also obvious that this family were but amateur keepers.”

“At this point,” Sherlock said, “I would turn the conversation to Julie Maguire at Long Island Turtle Rescue to attest to the condition of turtles who are kept in captivity by amateur keepers. She would, as would any turtle expert, I am sure, attest that less than optimal conditions greatly shortens a turtle’s life and renders gross physical proof of inadequate husbandry.”

“Looking at the photos attached often to this Internet story, one can clearly see that the turtles in the pictures are not of the turtle lost 32 years ago. A turtle kept with inadequate husbandry would not look healthy. If the present turtle is a different turtle, as I believe it is, it still would not look very healthy as they children did not report the presence of any turtle husbandry equipment.”

“My conclusion is thus: the turtle was not the turtle the children knew 32 years ago. They had neither the expertise nor experience to claim that it was. If the children had some experience with reptiles or turtles they may have recognized if there was reptile equipment in the house like lights, vitamins, food or substrate.”

“We can reasonable conclude the father had a turtle in his possession before he died. The neighbor seems to have knowledge of the turtle because the neighbor asked if the children were throwing away the turtle.”

Just because there are pictures attached to an Internet story doesn’t mean the pictures are actual pictures of the actual people or animals or place. In some of the internet article the photos were "stock" pictures. Picture are attached to a stories because people are more likely to read the article. That’s a journalistic fact.

Just because someone THINKS something happened, like the children in this story, doesn’t mean they came to scientific truth. In the case of the 32 year old turtle living in a house without the benefit of correct husbandry (food, water, light, humidity, heat, exercise, security), it’s just not scientifically possible. The children’s own story backs up those facts.

This last weekend a Rapper claimed to have photographic proof the world is flat. Oh, please!

Be smarter than the internet. Be like Sherlock. Use logic.


  1. True dat! I hope the turtle will have proper care and a happy life

  2. Inspired by the story and Sherlock's logic, as a mini experiment, I left the door to my Redfoots' "tortiose house" open in my living room for a day to see if they would get out and get "lost." They are small, maybe 3 or 4 years old, about the size of my fist, and the alleged age/size and species of the tort in the story. One of them managed to climb into the cat's food dish and peck up the dry crumbs found there (maybe 1/2 teaspoon of protein). The other one pecked some dried bugs out of the track of the sliding glass door (maybe 1/4 teaspoon of fiber--are there carbs in bugs?). I left water and salad greens with hibiscus flowers out, which they shunned in favor of the more exotic fare to be found on my floor (it's white tile, so crumbs show, and they love to peck at those). Around 9:00 p.m. I found them happily ensconced in the tort-sized dust bunnies where my sofa meets the wall. Don't think they could stay "lost" and live like that for 32 years (for starters, they'd get too big to fit under the sofa), but they had a good time playing hide and seek for a day.....