Happy World Turtle Day!

May 23, 2022 • 9:47 pm

by Greg Mayer

I’ve only just learned that today, Monday, May 23, is World Turtle Day. Jerry noted the holiday in today’s Hili Dialogue, but I missed it, so my apologies for posting so late in the day.

The day is sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue, so I thought it appropriate to share a video of Zelby, a tortoise who is an acquaintance of mine.

Zelby is a member of the genus Testudo, and is one of the species from the Mediterranean area which also extend eastward into Asia. The species might be T. horsfieldi, the Russian Tortoise. There are several forms of this group popular in the pet trade; the alpha systematics is still in flux, and I don’t know the group well.

Zelby is dining on mixed greens and cucumber slices.

12 thoughts on “Happy World Turtle Day!

  1. Oh thank you for sharing Zelby! I grew up with a tortoise – a yellow-footed tortoise. I love turtles and tortoises.

  2. I have it on very good authority that feeding a Horsefield’s tortoise apple slices is a bad idea. They’re quite happy to eat them but the stink they produce after digesting them is beyond belief.

  3. Hi Greg. I love turtles! When I was a child I sought and collected Eastern Mud Turtles at a pond near my house. I’d find eggs, turtles, young. It was fun, although I’m not so sure that the turtles liked me as much as I liked them.

    Also at that same pond, I frequently encountered Common Snapping Turtles. These powerful, not-very-sociable turtles were large and dangerous. Once—for a reason so stupid I can’t admit it—I was bitten by one of these monsters and had to go have a tetanus shot. Luckily I kept my finger.

    Later, as an adult, I lived in rural Virginia where Box Turtles were very common. I rescued many from disaster when I found them trying to cross roads without looking both ways in advance.

    Now, in Washington State, our most common turtle is the Red-eared Slider. These invaders from the east outcompete our Western Pond Turtle, which is now sadly rare. I have never seen one, but hope to some day.

    Hey Greg, do you remember those Galápagos tortoise shells that were stored in the basement of the MCZ? They were awesome!

    1. Hey Norm, good turtle stories! We have sliders in Wisconsin and northern Illinois as well, but although the adults survive the winters, they don’t seem to be able to reproduce here– too cold, I suppose. I do remember the Galapagos (and Aldabra) shells at the MCZ, and I get to see the ones at the Field Museum now!


  4. A mixed green and cucumber meal doesn’t seem to be very nutritious. The size these animals grow and their longevity implies some sort of food value that I am unaware. Can you provide this information? Thank you.

    1. Testudo sensu stricto don’t get very big, but they and many other tortoises (including the big ones) have primarily plant diets, so there must be sufficient nutrition in such a diet. In captivity, herbivores and omnivores can present difficulties of finding a suitable balanced diet. (Reptilian carnivores are pretty easy to feed, since they eat whole prey animals.) For many reptiles popular in the pet trade, commercial foods that meet the dietary requirements are available. Zelby’s diet includes such a commercial food (fed in a separate bowl, hence not visible in the video), as well as the fresh leaves and fruit seen here. Zelby likes both fresh and commercially prepared foods.


      1. Ooh Horsfield was an interesting man -https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Horsfield

        Mates with Raffles.
        Sorry, I recall you are not a Wikipedia fan!

        1. It’s not so much that I’m not a fan of Wikipedia, as that it must be taken with a grain of salt, and that it takes a lot of experience to know how much salt a particular article requires. Without having read it yet, my guess is that the Horsfield article is probably fine. (He’s not prominent enough to have attracted biased promoters or detractors. But you never know!)

          >Mates with Raffles.

          I had to read that carefully to make sure I got the part of speech right!

          Edit 10 minutes later: I’ve now read the Horsfield article. Besides a slightly confusing beginning in which so much detail was provided on his ancestors that it was hard to tell which “he” was meant, it was fine. I made a couple of clarifications.


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