Colin Kaepernick’s tortoise: These smart, engaging pets are not for everybody
DEAR JOAN: Over the last 30 years, massive sulcata tortoises have become popular pets in the United States, in large part because of how adorable they are as babies. Many new sulcata owners don’t know what they’re in for, as the animals can grow to over 200 pounds, live more than 100 years, and need specialized care.
Thousands of pet sulcatas, which often have health problems due to poor care, are in need of new homes. Many tortoise rescues across the country are at capacity and can’t take them.
New York, N.Y.
DEAR TOBIAS: Sulcata tortoises, also known as African spurred tortoises, have been popular for a number of years and many people are just now starting to realize what they’ve gotten themselves in to.
As babies, the tortoises are incredibly cute. They are about the size of a tennis ball, and they are smart and engaging.
Some buyers are misled by sellers who don’t warn them of their tortoises’ longevity or their future size. Others tell would-be buyers to keep them in tanks to prevent them from growing, a practice that results in an unhappy, unhealthy tortoise and, eventually, a shattered tank.
A few years ago, when 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick was tearing up the field, rescue groups worried that stories about Kaep’s tortoise, Sammy, would launch a demand for the animals.
Kaepernick was only 10 when he got Sammy; the tortoise, when last heard from, weighed 115 pounds.
In August, the American Tortoise Rescue issued a warning about the mammoth pets, asking the pet industry and breeders to stop selling sulcatas, and asking consumers not to buy them, at least not without knowing their full story.
When they are older, it’s impossible to keep them indoors — they crash through walls and destroy furniture — and it’s difficult to contain them inside a yard, where they eat everything in sight.
There is no resale market for the behemoths and even zoos have stopped taking them. In Southern California, people have taken to turning them out in the desert, which is not a good solution. The tortoises are native to Africa, not California.
DEAR JOAN: It was a ride that started no differently from a thousand previous climbs up Mount Diablo to seek fresh air and a little exercise. But this day would soon turn decidedly surreal.
While chatting with a friend somewhere above the 2,500-foot level, a crow traversed the roadway just above our heads, said « Hello » and continued nonchalantly onward to wherever she was bound.
Now I know crows are intelligent and accomplished mimics, but this appeared to be the use of a human greeting in proper context. That explanation smacks of anthropomorphism yet I have no reasonable theory to explain the bird’s behavior. Thoughts? Similar experiences?
DEAR KEVIN: Crows are very smart and have the ability to mimic sounds. Most likely someone has taught it to say hello.
I don’t think it knows hello is a greeting, but I do think it recognizes that you are human and when it sees humans, it makes the sound it was taught.
Now, if it had dropped onto your handlebars and started a conversation about the presidential candidates, that would be entirely different.