American Tortoise Rescue created World Turtle Day fourteen years ago to heighten public awareness of tortoises and turtles and their habitats around the world.
Celebrating turtles is always fun and exciting, but today I have particular cause to cheer. This blog post is my first (and very special) guest interview.
Gordy is a turtle and tortoise rescue champion. When his mom, Bronwen, wrote to tell me he was reading my novel, Elizabeth’s Landing, she mentioned he had saved a turtle and a tortoise. I had to know more about that! And Gordy. He agreed to share his story. It was so inspiring, I wanted to share it with you.
Me: Hey, Gordy. Thanks for being here. Let’s start with how old you are and where you go to school.
Gordy: Thank you so much for this opportunity. I am so excited! I am 13, in 7th grade, and am home-schooled.
Me: When did you first get interested in animals? Did you ever think you’d be responsible for taking care of a turtle?
Gordy: My mom had been talking about how she wanted a tortoise for so long and had been telling me about how awesome they are. I didn’t think of owning one until I went to scout camp and took a class about reptiles. For the badge in scouts, I needed to take care of a reptile, so I chose a tortoise. I found one from another homeschooler who didn’t want him.
Me: Tell us about your critters and the rescue.
Gordy: I have one Russian tortoise.
His name is Hamburger because he looks like one. We call him Hammy though. He is very cute. The family I got him from got him for their 10-year-old son. Three years later he sold him to me, saying it’s boring and doesn’t do much. That’s because they had him in the basement in a glass, 20 gallon, fish tank. Tortoises don’t understand glass so they keep bashing themselves into it. He had no sun or UV light, and had bad food. The boy didn’t know, and didn’t even care, about that little Russian tortoise. Hammy had an overgrown beak and was scarred of everything. He (the boy) wasn’t getting any fun or love from the tortoise and not because the tortoise was boring. It was because the boy wasn’t putting any love or time into him so the poor tortoise just gave up. I have given him lots of sun and good food and now he Loves people!
My other one was way worse. She is an Eastern Box Turtle. Her name is Ninja, but we call her Ninjee. She needs a lot water and wetness, but the owner didn’t know how to care for her at all!
Me: I think what you are describing happens a lot when people get animals that are more exotic than a cat or dog. How did you take care of them when you got them home?
They need a variety of food which includes 50% protein like meal worms.
The owner just had her (Ninjee) in the living room and gave her no water and no light AND just fed her raspberries, which are only supposed to be 10% of her diet!! So, when I got her all of her skin was dry and pealing, her beak was Really long, and the orange on her was faded. Then I did the same as I did with Hammy–gave her sunlight and good food, and now I have two very Happy and Healthy Herps! *
Me: What a beautiful turnaround for their lives. We love these animals, but why should other people care about tortoises and turtles?
Gordy: Turtles and tortoises are such amazing creatures. They know just how to take care of themselves. They are like little robots with brains. It’s important that we learn how to take care of turtles and tortoises, then they will just keep doing what they are supposed to. But when we are ignorant and don’t try to help, we limit not only the cute little herp in their little shenanigans, we limit how much love and happiness we can get out of the relationship.
These magnificent animals are dying or living in horrible homes all around the world. They are creatures, not toys that you get for Christmas and then forget by Easter. All we have to do is spend 1 or 2 hours on the computer looking at what a tortoise or turtle needs, and then give that to them.
Me: Great advice and so simple. Do you have anything special planned for World Turtle Day?
Gordy: Me and my little sister are going to start a business, and with the money I make I am going to build an outside habitat that is nice and dry with a lot of foraging and hiding places for my Russian tortoise, and a swampy home that is moist and that has lots of things to hunt for my Eastern box turtle.
Me: What a terrific idea and goal. Sounds like they are in for a real treat, and it will be fun for you and your sister to design and build, too. Keep us posted. Anything else you want people to know?
Gordy: When we get a pet, learn how to take care of it, and then do it, we see how happy we can make it. I think that also teaches us how we can take care of the earth and all the animals in the wild.
Me: A great thought for us to take away from your rescue story, Gordy. Thank you for saving Hammy and Ninjee and letting me share your story with everyone. I hope others have become excited about turtles, maybe turn into turtle ninja’s, just like you. ***
If you are interested in caring for a tortoise or turtle in your home, first seek out a rescue. American Tortoise Rescue has information on about rescue opportunities for each species. Don’t buy turtles or tortoises from the pet trade or remove them from the wild.
American Turtle Rescue’s Facebook page, and other sites have lots of ways to celebrate Turtle Day.
A few of my own:
1) donate time or $ to (land, freshwater, and sea) turtle or tortoise rescue, conservation, end education programs.
2) learn more about these beautiful reptiles, their habitats and how they contribute to their ecosystem, the threats against them, and ways you can help.
3) Have a Ninja turtle party and celebrate being a turtle ninja! Thanks to One Creative Housewife for the cake (and party) ideas. NOTE: Skip the balloons–help save our dwindling national helium supplies. See balloonsblow.org for other reasons to give up balloons and use one their better alternatives. Add stuff to the party about real turtles and tortoises. Most of all, have fun!
* Herps is Gordy’s shortcut for herptiles, a term used to refer to both reptiles and amphibians.
Peace, and do what you can ~
Gordy is an amazing young man!