Saturday, December 8, 2007

More about turtles

An article in today's New York Times about adopting a turtle. Interesting comments section. Common themes seem to be: turtles and tortoises live so long that they outlive their owners, small turtles grow to the size of dinner plates, turtles are reptiles not amphibians, whether or not pet turtles are fond of human beings, and adopt your turtles from a shelter rather than buying them from a pet store, because as it turns out, there are plenty of people looking to get rid of them because you are not supposed to put them back into the wild. I doubt our animal shelters here in Tennessee will give out turtles because I believe it to be illegal to keep a turtle as a pet -- it varies from state to state. Here is a link to a turtle adoption agency (they are looking for homes for unwanted pet turtles.)

In the late 60s/early 70s, little turtles were commonly sold in stores, stores like Kmart. My grandmother bought me two little turtles and an aquarium. They were the diameter of a tangerine. I was way too young to look after a pet, and I liked to take Bellybutton and Spot out and play with them, then just walk away. So they were always "escaping." Then the whole family would search, and they'd be found behind the refrigerator or under the ledge of the pantry.

One day my Mom told me we were going to visit our cousins, and get Bellybutton and Spot. I was very suspicious. Then we let them go in a creek. Turns out, the fact that turtles can carry salmonella had become a hot news item and parents were encouraged to get rid of their kids' turtles. Stores stopped selling them. Letting turtles go back into the wild is illegal now, because turtles that don't belong to an area breed and edge out species that do belong, so I don't know whether setting them free was considered the appropriate method for getting rid of them back then or not.

Meanwhile, here are some turtle facts: all turtles, including tortoises, are considered turtles. Turtles are reptiles, not amphibians, and their eggs are laid on land. Most turtle species are adapted for living in water, and tortoises are the subset who are not and only go into the water to drink or bathe.

The turtles I met at the Hickory Aquarium seemed friendlier than my lizards. The comments section under the New York Times article referenced above is full of stories of turtles liking people. One person mentions that his turtle's favorite musical genres are folk and classical.


Cindi said...

That turtle and I have the same taste in music -- "complex and reflective"!

BethTH said...

I have heard that turtles are the puppies of the amphibian world.