Gender: Male & Female | Birth Year: Estimated 1900 | Conservation Status: Least Concern
People find a number of ways to make money from animals without thinking about the welfare of the animals and how their actions will affect the animals in the long term. It has become a popular trade to breed tortoises and sell them per “piece” as a little tortoise is deemed “cute” and makes for a low maintenance pet.
In 2019, we were lucky enough to meet a tortoise rescue enthusiast living in Pretoria, Gauteng. As the tortoises’ guardian angel arrived on the scene, she found a lot of tortoises in poor living conditions and in very bad health.
Hannes and Vera, named after the owners of Boschpoort Safaris, were the first tortoises to arrive at our park. They are estimated to be over 110 years old. Our devotee fed them on a specialized diet consisting of nutrient-rich foods like beetroot and spinach. Their shells were so brittle that if you were to pick them up, you would crush the shell just by holding on to it. Aloe bandages were wrapped around their shells for a period of 8 months to help them recover. A veterinarian even invented a neck brace to prevent them from retracting their heads into their shells and pulling out the intravenous calcium drip that strengthened their shells.
Tof also comes from a similar background where her shell was broken by a pitchfork in the garden and had to be recovered. The rescue of tortoises is still an ongoing process as there are many tortoises being kept illegally as pets. Indigenous tortoises may not be kept in captivity or removed from the wild without the required permit from Nature Conservation authorities.
The tortoises taught us that although an animal is not dangerous, it is still wild. In order for the survival and well-being of their species it is best to leave them in their natural environment with potential mates, their favourite food, and the choice of picking their own shelter.