It was a moment of fun captured on camera as a Sacramento police officer took an opportunity to “de-stress” in South Sacramento this week and pretend to be in pursuit of an African sulcata. The huge tortoise is frequently seen with his owner walking along the residential streets. Of course, headlines abounded with witty words of police “foot pursuits” and “the jig is up, I’m taking you downtown.”
The tortoise is a common neighborhood oddity as he walks along the quiet street, but when he tires his owner plops the huge tortoise in a red wagon and tows him home.
Sulcata tortoises are known to be the third largest (Galapago and Aldabra giant tortoise are one and two) in the world. And just in case you aren’t familiar with the difference between tortoises and turtles, tortoises live in dry areas, and turtles live mostly in the water. They originate from the Sahara Desert and can be found in Ethiopia and Sudan. In order to find relief from the heat, these amazing creatures burrow into the ground.
Surprisingly, there are numerous Sulacata tortoises kept as pets, however too many wind up in need of rescue. They are no longer imported into the United States and are protected under CITES regulations, but continue to be bred here.
The Long Island Turtle Rescue explains the problem:
“It is amazing to me how a tortoise is now in need of protection in its native country when here in the states we are begging people to stop breeding them; there are so many ending up in rescues because of the irresponsible breeding and selling of them. So many saw how easy it was to make a quick buck and jumped on that opportunity. Sad that so many Sulcata tortoises have had to pay the price for that selfish act.”
These tortoises frequently end up needing to be rescued after their owners have given them up because they have grown too large. Pet stores sell them when they are babies, and they easily fit into ten gallon tanks. How many people are prepared to care for a tortoise which can grow to 200 pounds, and reach 24 to 36 inches long? Their lifespans range from 50 to 150 years.
Be responsible. If you are planning to raise one of these amazing tortoises, learn how to properly care for them, and keep in mind they are not throwaways.
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