You Gotta Fight

For your right. To sunbathe. So says Bob. Or should I call him Beatie Boy Bob. I know I go on a lot about my turtles, all ten of them. And especially Bob. They’re such excellent pets. They just sit out there on the patio, minding their own business, perfectly happy so long as they’re fed regularly. I suspect their brains are pretty small, and their intelligence probably equivalent to their brain size. But when I’m out there in the yard smoking a cigarette, they give me a look. A look that suggests that in the hundreds of millions of years that turtle species have been on planet Earth, they’ve picked up a nugget or two of good info. A look that tells me they’ve decided I’m ‘ok’. Most human intrusions into the yard results in multiple splashes, as they pretty much simultaneously dive off their rock and seek cover underneath it.

It’s going to be hard parting company with them next year. They can’t come with me – UK law prohibits it. Most of them will have had their fifth birthday by then. That makes them old as far as the lifespan of the average pet turtle is concerned, but that’s because pet turtles are not taken care of properly. Most die within a few weeks.  If given a good home, these little fellows can see their 30th birthday. Maybe even make it to 40. If Bob gets his full term, I’ll be 72 by the time he pops his clogs. In fact, he could well outlast me. That’s problem number one in finding him a new home – an owner prepared to keep the food coming in his direction over the long term.

But otherwise they are easy to please. Change their water once a week to ten days. Throw in the occasional calcium brick. Give them an occasional meat treat. And share looks over a cigarette. In the morning, they’ll climb, one by one onto the rock to sunbathe. Bob first, usually. They’ll jostle for the best sunbathing position. They love the sun, being reptiles and all. In the evening, once they’re certain the sun has gone for good and isn’t just hiding behind a cloud, they’ll slide back into the water. They’ll flirt a little with each other. And they’ll swim up to me when I appear at about 6pm. They know when food time is. The sight of a green bag packet being shaken tells them for sure, and they’ll start splashing around in excitement. They’ve picked up a nugget or two of info, for sure.

Turtle Derby 2009

My ten turtles race off in what is undoubtedly the highlight of the global sporting calendar. Maybe. Or else it’s just me having a little fun doing a video of them wandering around the patio for a few minutes. Recorded for posterity. Some would even go so far to say that the Turtle Derby has nothing in common with the athletics world at all, but that would in fact be an erroneous opinion. The gender of many of the participants of this race is disputed. Male? Female? Who knows. I wonder if there has ever been a hermaphrodite turtle? By the way, the eldest two of my turtles just turned four. Imagine! Animals in my care surviving beyond a few months was once considered a miracle.

Turtles Are Not Vegetarians

Very nearly four years ago, Paola and I returned from the local pet shop with two tiny baby RES turtles, who we called Bob and Homer. A third and fourth soon joined them. And why not – they were so tiny! At the time. Boy, do they grow. Angus and Bob, our biggest turts, have gone from the size of a 2 peso coins to a small dinner plate.

Paola was quite convinced they were vegetarian, and tried tempting them with bits of lettuce. They weren’t very interested. In fact, they’d rather starve. Tuna fish, lamb, ham and chicken on the other hand. That got their appetite going. Meat of any kind has always been a welcome supplement to their diet of Tortuguetas turtle pellets. It’s only a rare treat, though.

At the moment, Paola’s mum is visiting from the US, and as she has a certain fondness for our turts, she boiled up a chicken foot for them. Yes, she likes chicken feet in her soups. Whole chicken feet. Toes and all. As do many Mexicans. The turtles like chicken feet too, as you can see from this video. It’s not been speeded up. My placid turts, who barely move for most of the day, suddenly turn into raging carnivores, racing around and ready to kill for a bite of meat. Or skin.

The feast came to an end when Bob and Angus began biting off entire toes. I didn’t want them to be swallowing any bones and choking, so the foot came out. As did Angus, who refused to release the toe he’d gotten hold of. The music is from the album 2four9 by Drumbeater.

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