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



June 24, 2009

Beat the heat

Hello. Frankie here with some cool summer tips.

First, humans complain way too much about the heat. Humans have build in "weather regulators" to cool their bodies where us "cold blooded" tortoises can't sweat. Our tortoise bodies don't have anything built-in to fix body temperatures, so we use our big sharp brains to stay cool. We're not as dumb as humans think.

We sulcata tortoises love the sun. The sun helps us digest our food, warms our bodies, helps calcium absorption, and most important, supply light so we can walk everywhere and put away a lot of grass. When the sun goes down we just can't do these things very well. Our shells are hard but we can really bump our heads running into tree stumps in the dark. We are just day creatures.

But that sun can get to be too much. After a while the sun gets us so hot that we could be come crispy tortoises on the half-shell. Try to avoid this at all possible. I have quite a few things to "keep cool", so here are my favorites to stay cool when its hot.

Get a good sized kiddy pool. We need a space cut out so we can get in otherwise we let out all the water climbing in. I like my kiddy pool in the shade. After a couple of hours in the sun the water gets hot and that just defeats the purpose of getting into the water. If I wanted to be boiled, I'd been born a shrimp! Get into the pool and kick some water over the shell and enjoy the cool. Help yourself to all the water you can drink. If you just can't help yourself go ahead and poop or pee in the water: just be sure to call out the human to clean it out and fill it up with some new fresh clean water.

As long as you got the human outside, have them turn on the hose and spray down the old shell with some water -- remind the human that spraying in the face is just not all that funny. A cold spray of water over the shell goes a long way to cooling off.

If you are lucky, you got a mud hole somewhere. Now this is heaven on earth for a sulcata. Get in and splash some mud all over yourself. And it's just too bad that human has fresh laundry hanging just within the mud zone. Don't give it a second thought: Just sit there for a while splashing mud everywhere.

For those really long hot afternoons, find a nice large green bush to sit under. This is one of my favorite ways to pass the afternoon. Trees do just fine too. Take a snooze, count the birds or watch nature in action.

My personal dream is to dig a big hole into the ground about 8 to 12 feet long. These make for some super cool places to hang out during hot days. Poop and pee keep tunnels nice and humid so don't be shy about laying some around. I selected a real nice spot for my tunnel but my human put me into "time out" when she found me digging under the air condition system. Now I am not allow any tunnels. Instead the humans supplied me with a big outdoor house. Yea, just wait until they go on vacation again.

Outdoor houses are nice but some humans don't realize that sunlight can turn these things into ovens. Make sure your human puts your shelter under some shade. My human has a tent over my house and it keeps the house nice and cool. Still you can't beat a big tree.

In my yard I happen to have a big pile of leaves in a shaded spot under a tree. I dig under the leaves until I get to the cool soil underneath. This is about as nice as it gets.

Well good luck you fellow sulcata. I hope you got a good human who keeps a big yard for trekking around in the morning with lots of spots for kicking back when it gets hot. While you are out grazing try not to eat all the bushes in the yard: you may just need these for some nice cool shade.

Your friend, Frankie

June 19, 2009

A New Nemesis

Frankie has faced a number of foes in his days: Objects of such strength, vile, and cunning that Frankie was nearly unable to overcome the odds to beat them. Such is the life of an ordinary backyard sulcata tortoise.

As a baby sulcata, Frankie's first true nemesis was the "Half Log". An innocent enough looking item found in most pet stores, it's a very useful shelter for turtles and reptiles. Decorative and simple, it's a hollow log cut in half so that a turtle can crawl under to seek a little privacy and sleep.

In the case of Frankie the innocent log turned into a fierce foe for the first time warrior. The first trial was initiated when the curious young Frankie approached the log from the side and attempted the climb-over-the side-of-the-log. As he put his two front feet up onto the log Frankie quickly found himself flipped over in the undignified turtle-on-back position.

Without the skills of a long necked turtle, our young Frankie was left humiliated and vulnerable on his back until a screeching and panicky human owner (that would be me) found him and turn him over on his feet. Defeated but not broken, Frankie would not give in. Frankie would go back and try again.

The quest to beat the log and successfully traverse over the wooden nemesis would be a endless. Time and time again our hero attempted the treacherous climb. Time and time again Frankie would end up on his back.

Unbeknown to our determined Frankie, the keeper was very tired of finding her precious sulcata on his back. Fearing suffocation or heat stroke (real terror) the dangerous half-log was secretly removed from his enclosure. Frankie found his foe the the half-log vanished one day.

Much later of course there was the "Old Bale of Wire". A curiously tempting  yet harmless looking thing in his yard, the Old Bale of Wire caught Frankie more than once in his clutches causing Frankie life long scars on his shell ever reminding him of battles gone by. The Old Bale of Wire too was not to be beaten but Frankie got the satisfaction of knowing the Old Bale of Wire would be recycled into soda cans.

His recent foe, Purple Pooper Scooper, looks like one nemesis that has met his match. Brought to the yard to assist in cleaning Frankie's outdoor enclosure, the Purple Pooper Scooper was much appreciated by the keeper (me again) as it helps scoop out poop in hard to reach areas like inside Frankie's outdoor house as well as keeping human hands off wet and dry poop alike and then to move poop near the house to a better place -- like away from the house.

One day the Purple Pooper Scooper was doing its "doo-ty" removing smelly scant from under the porch. Unbeknown to the operator (me) the foe was being hunted from in the middle of the yard.

Perhaps it was the color of Purple Pooper Scooper, perhaps it was it's shiny metallic finish, perhaps Frankie just preferred his poop to lay to rest where it was deposited and not moved to another location. What ever the reason, Frankie had it out for the Purple Pooper Scooper from first day he lay eyes on it.

Frankie stalked the Purple Pooper Scooper for a moment and then at full out sulcata jog (a very frightening sight when one assume these gentle monsters move at a snail space), the Purple Pooper Scooper faced an all out attack from a 60 pound sulcata male who had two front ramming scutes and knew how to use them.

The unprepared Purple Pooper Scooper went flying out of my hand as I had no idea what was going on. Had I known I would have saved said Purple Pooper Scooper from said 60 pound charging sulcata but it was too late. Frankie went back for a second and final trample. No longer would Frankie be outdone by anything challenging his authority.

I am here to report that the Purple Pooper Scooper survived and is still operational. But that Purple Pooper Scooper has learned its lesson. It is NO match for Frankie our hero. If that Purple Pooper Scooper wants to return to duty then it will just have to watch his back. That's right: do your poop scoop when Frankie isn't around to witness injustice done to his poop.

Let this be a lesson to any potential back yard nemesis. Frankie RULES!

June 2, 2009

A special Frankie mud

I can't help but share this as many keepers are in knee-deep discussions about our sulcata's mud area.

This last week with the ground being a bit muddy and all, Frankie has really enjoyed sitting under the porch during the heat of the day and watching the squirrels, chipmunks, cats and birds go by. He spends hours there.

Anyway, I usually put on a pair of old beat up sneakers when I go visit him especially when it's this muddy. When I get back into the house I take them off at the door to prevent dragging mud into the house.

On Monday evening it was a bit drier so after dinner I got a carrot and ran out to give it to Frankie before he turned in for the night but I skipped putting on the shoes. I sat on a chair under the porch for just a couple of minutes with him while he ate the carrot, then I came back into the house careful to first wipe my feet before going back into the living room to watch TV with Greg.

A couple of minutes passed while I was sitting with Greg watching TV when we both simultaneously looked at each other very accusingly wondering who was guilty of the particularly foul smell.

"Don't look at me!" He says.

"Well, don't look at me either!"

So we both thought for a moment and Greg looked down to my bare feet.

"Did you wear shoes outside when you gave Frankie his carrot?" Greg asks.

Then it hits both of us. The stinky sewer smell was my feet after walking over the Frankie peed-on mud. I may have "wiped" but the Frankie peed mud aroma had stuck on my feet.

Oh, yuck! Foot bath, please!