I met a tortoise crossing the road….
How many people stop, pick the tortoise up and take it home? How many thousands of tortoises are lost to the gene pool every year because of a misguided sense of conservation. Tortoises are not lost when you come across them in the veld, they are just moving to a different grazing area, perhaps after some favourite little morsel in the veld that they remember from last year.
Some tortoises are difficult to keep in captivity and may die because you cannot provide them with their natural diet. Some tortoises are very rare. Removing them from the wild means that their genes are lost forever to the remaining wild population. Tortoises collected from the wild may suffer stress in captivity and this could cause opportunistic diseases, or parasites to flourish.
And others stop, pick the tortoise up, turn it over (why do we always do this to a tortoise?), and then put it down safely on the other side of the road.
But if you pick a wild tortoise up and turn it over, it will urinate and lose precious moisture that may have sustained it during the dry months. It may die anyway.
So what is the right thing to do?
If the tortoise has crossed the road and is heading towards the veld, just smile and drive on by. If the tortoise is heading towards the road, pick it up gently without turning it over. Put it safely on the other side of the road, facing in the same direction as you found it, and let it go on its way. If there are fences prohibiting its entry into the veld, put it on the otherside of the fence.
Remember, tortoises are wild animals and you need a permit to keep them in captivity
If you own a tortoise that you no longer want, please do not release it.
- They may have become accustomed to a specific diet which they wont find in the wild
- You may be releasing it in an area where it may not find its natural food source
- An animal or tortoise kept in captivity is exposed to many diseases that the wild population may have no resistance to. They could transmit diseases picked up in captivity to the wild population, causing unnecessary deaths to the wild population of tortoises.
If you have an animal that you no longer want or cannot properly care for, please hand it in to the nearest animal shelter, rehabilitation centre or zoo. They will find the correct place for the animal to go to.
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