August 2, 2022 - Malibu, CA - American Tortoise Rescue launches “Senior Class,” a fundraiser honoring the sanctuary’s oldest residents and benefitting the turtles and tortoises at the nonprofit rescue. Squish, Bunkle, Spinner, Queenie and Fluffy are featured on the new shirts and totes at https://www.bonfire.com/senior-class-american-tortoise-rescue.
Since 1990, more than 4,000 turtles and tortoises have passed through the gates at American Tortoise Rescue’s sanctuary in Malibu, CA. Some were lost, some were no longer wanted by their owners and some were being smuggled on their way to other countries. Each one has a story…some happy, some sad and some Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, the co-founders, will never know. They come in many sizes, colors, shapes and personalities. Some are funny and some like to hide. Some love worms and others like to eat strawberries. Some live in a pond, but most live on land.
Squish – An Eastern Box Turtle, he came to the rescue with a caved in waist formed by a plastic ring around canned drinks that someone carelessly tossed on the ground. He lives normally on the easy coast, but came to us many years ago, and we removed the ring, letting his growth pattern be normal. Now 30 years later, there is only a small concave part on one side where it used to be!
Bunkle - Bunkle, an Eastern box turtle, was the first land turtle to arrive at American Tortoise Rescue in 1990. The sanctuary received a call from someone who had found him wandering in the street in a nearby town. He immediately took over as king of the shelter, bossing every new turtle that comes in. His strong presence and constant patrolling of the sanctuary earned him the title of “mascot” which he holds 32 years later.
Spinner - Spinner is an old three toed box turtle, one of many millions taken out of the wild with cruel hooks to feed an insatiable pet trade. Spinner is a special needs turtle who got her name because she constantly turns in one direction due to a spinal injury from either a car or a human that left her unable to move her arms and legs properly. She’s part of a population of about 100 unadoptable turtles with special needs at the sanctuary special needs hospital where she has spent 20+ years, and lives with other special needs turtles who need daily supervision.
Queenie - An Asian box turtle, Queenie is one of many exported out of Asia in bulk to feed a growing pet trade, as well as an appetite for food or medicinal aids. Queenie suffers from many deformities as a result of poor care from her former owner, including a misshapen jaw and overgrown shell (note the thick deformed carapace). She joined a population of about 25 Asians at ATR, most of which suffer from similar problems. These turtles are shy and gentle creatures who just want to be wild, so they have free run of the sanctuary where they eat, hide and sleep safely.
Fluffy - Fluffy is a Cooter, a water turtle from the Midwest area, but probably dumped in the L.A. River when no one wanted her anymore. She was our first water turtle adopted in 1994 from a boy in a pet store who had her in his backpack. She was an adult back then, so she has to be at least 35 to 50 years old. She is the queen of the pond hanging out sunning herself all summer. Several years after getting Fluffy, we adopted another Cooter named Einstein (a girl) from a skittish mom-to-be. They live together in a pond at American Tortoise Rescue.
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1. Box turtles are wild animals that live outside. Do not keep yours in a tank. It is a sad existence for an animal that is used to living in a quiet, wild habitat where he can hide among the leaves and bury himself in the dirt. Make sure that your box turtle has a safe place to live in your yard. It should have a high fence to make it predator proof, plenty of places to hide, no pesticides or Snarol and shallow pot saucers of water to soak in.
2. Box turtles should feel heavy when you pick them up. They are carnivores. They eat worms, snails, slugs and other small insects as well as some green vegetation. So if your garden does not have enough for your box turtle to eat, buy some super worms at the local pet store and let him eat as many as he wants every day.
3. Box turtles hibernate. They will stop eating about early September or later if you live in a warm climate. If they are indigenous to your area, or you live in a temperate climate, or if they have lived outside all along, they can hibernate in the leaves and dirt. They need moisture so do not hibernate them in a box in your house. If you must hibernate them in the house, put them in a Rubbermaid box in fertilizer free potting soil in a cool area with a small container of water for moisture. Check them once a month.
4. Box turtles should have bright clear eyes and no runny noses. They normally close up their hinge when disturbed. If you can pull open the bottom shell easily with your finger, and the turtle is acting sluggish, has nasal or eye discharge, has swollen eyes or has stopped eating, you need to see a vet. This is not normal. Make sure that you see a reptile "exotic" vet who knows all about turtles.
5. If your turtle is planning to lay eggs, it will often stop eating. This is normal. It might start and stop digging for several days before it finds the spot it likes. Normally this happens at dusk. They will become mesmerized and dig with their back feet until the eggs are ready to be laid. If you want to hatch them yourself, carefully dig them up, keeping them in the direction that they were laid. Put them in vermiculite with a baby food size jar of water buried next to them. Cover with plastic, put on top of the frig or other warm place and wait three months. If you leave them in the ground (my preference), they usually take longer to hatch. It's possible ants or groundhogs will eat them, however.
For more information, follow us on Facebook at American Tortoise Rescue.
Below is the house we built for our sulcata, as well as many other houses for the sanctuary years ago. We used plywood for the roof with fireproof James Hardie 4 x 8 foot cement siding on top, which provides rain and sun protection. We built cinder block and rebar houses with the removable roof for cleaning and a removable door for closing as well as a wind barrier. The roof has a radiant heat panel screwed into the underside for heat from above and the floor is made up of pig blankets (made for pigs so they can take the weight) called Kane heat pads – both are available from www.beanfarm.com. Never use any lights – they cause fires. Never cover the pig blankets with any substrate or hay.
American Tortoise Rescue , the international nonprofit for turtle and tortoise protection, is asking consumers to not buy live animals, especially turtles and tortoises. Adopt please! Here’s a list of rescues in the U.S and elsewhere http://www.tortoise.com/need-a-rescue.html.
According to Susan Tellem, co-founder of the sanctuary, while these wonderful reptiles have outlived the dinosaurs, wide spread illegal smuggling and the commercial pet trade in turtles and tortoises has devastated wild populations worldwide. Many once thriving species are now threatened or endangered. Worse, some are now extinct.
"The pet industry thrives on small, adorable exotic animals with a big price tag," Tellem says. "What we are recommending is to avoid impulse buys. We understand the appeal of an adorable two inch baby turtle!” Tellem adds, “But most animal rescues have many turtles and tortoises ready for adoption to good homes.”
Tellem gives five reasons why people shouldn’t buy a turtle or tortoise.
She adds that a domesticated pet cannot be put back into the wild. It will die or introduce disease into an already precarious wild ecosystem. In many states, it is also illegal.
Tellem says that the option of placing the animal with a rescue is not always the answer, as her rescue is full as are most others. The best solution is to find a compassionate adopter who is willing to give a proper “forever home” to the pet. There are many national rescue organizations listed on www.tortoise.com which can facilitate adoptions if people are interested in getting an animal.
One way to enjoy a turtle or tortoise without harming them is to make a donation to a nonprofit like American Tortoise Rescue. “This allows us to educate people and care for the ones that are ill in our sanctuary. If a donor makes a $100 donation or more, we send them an adoption certificate featuring one of our permanent residents, and it’s good for one year. People enjoy that because they can care for the animal vicariously,” Tellem says.
American Tortoise Rescue, Malibu, Calif., is a nonprofit founded in 1990 to provide for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle. For more information, contact: American Tortoise Rescue at www.tortoise.com ; or email email@example.com . Follow on Twitter @tortoiserescue and on Facebook. Tellem started World Turtle Day® 17 years ago which is now celebrated globally (and is trademarked). Find out more at www.wroldturtleday.org and on Facebook and twitter.
© 2016 American Tortoise Rescue
Reptiles can make children and adults very ill.
In September, school bells start ringing all over the United States. And so do our phones. Teachers are calling American Tortoise Rescue asking if they can have turtles or tortoises for their classrooms, most commonly red eared sliders, a water turtle, or a Russian tortoise, a land tortoise (pictured).
Our answer is always the same. Absolutely not.
Why? Because having one in your classroom or the schoolyard can be fatal to both your child or the turtle or tortoise for several reasons.
1. Reptiles of all kinds can carry a disease called Salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterial infection that generally infects the intestinal tract and occasionally the blood stream. Symptoms include mild to severe diarrhea, fever and occasionally vomiting. While healthy adults may show no symptoms of Salmonella even if they are infected, children under five, pregnant women and the elderly are at risk of serious illness or even death from Salmonella infection. This is immediate red flag to nursery school and grade school teachers considering turtles or other reptiles for their classrooms. An exotic pet veterinarian told us that a teacher is a sitting duck for a lawsuit should any of the children in the classroom get infected. “Teachers know the risks, so if a parent were to sue for a million dollars (much more if the child dies), the parent will win.” It is not worth the risk.
2. Turtles and tortoises are quiet wild animals that prefer not to be in the company of humans, especially lively young children who shriek, over-handle and chase animals. Even when children are closely supervised, accidents can and do happen. Turtles get dropped, stressed out or die.
3. A turtle or tortoise or any wild animal confined to a tank is living a miserable existence – it’s a death chamber. It’s like you or me living in a bathtub for the rest of our lives. Tanks are for fish.
These creatures are used to living outside where they can get the sun and food they are used to.
Most people have little factual knowledge about turtles and tortoises even with the Internet – in fact the Internet has so much incorrect information it is often confusing to someone who is trying to do a good job caring for these animals.
What is very disturbing to us is that many schools already have turtles and tortoises as classroom "pets." Turtle are wild animals, not pets. Even after we educate principals and teachers about the risks to the children and the animals, turtles remain in close contact with the children. When there have been cruelty complaints filed with us about the poor housing and living conditions of turtles and tortoises in schools, educators still have refused to relinquish the poor animals…cases in point - several well-known preschools schools and one children’s workshop in Southern California.
So please, parents, persuade your teachers to relinquish the turtles and tortoises to a responsible turtle rescue. Don't let them expose your children to a serious illness. It can be a matter of life and death.
American Tortoise Rescue is a nonprofit founded in 1990 for the protection of all species of turtles and tortoises. We have rescued more than 4,000 since our inception. Foundlings that cannot be adopted because of ill health remain in the care of ATR for the remainder of their lives. ATR acts as a clearinghouse for information about turtle care. We work to abolish “live market” slaughter of turtles in the US, the sale of reptiles on sites like Craig’s List and the cruel importation and exploitation of a variety of species. Celebrate World Turtle Day every year on May 23rd!
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