Among our rescued animal ambassadors at Adam’s Animal Encounters is a tank who took a beating but is doing better.
We call our sulcata tortoise Tank. We picked him up in last July after he almost got run over by a car’s tire. As it was, the under carriage of the vehicle ripped off a couple of pieces of shell and left him with multiple fractures. Scared and in pain, it took more than 24 hours for him to finally emerge from his shell.
It took Tank about three months to heal. We had to clean his wound, bandage him up and change the bandages. We also had to watch for insects. Mosquitos can bite tortoises through their shells, even if there is no injury.
The shell completely encloses all the vital organs of the turtle and in some cases even the head. It’s constructed of modified bony elements such as the ribs, parts of the pelvis and other bones found in most reptiles.
The shell is built amazingly. It’s super strong. Lions usually aren’t able to chew through the shell.
Turtles also feel through their shells. The turtle cannot crawl out of it because the shell is made from broad/flat ribs fused to the backbone. The shell’s top is called the carapace, and the bottom is the plastron. Turtles can feel pressure and pain through their shells, just as you can feel pressure through your fingernails. Many of ours actually enjoy shell scratches.
As for food, the majority of a sulcata’s diet includes various grasses and hays. Hibiscus flowers, leaves and prickly pear cactus also are included each week. A couple of times a year, they enjoy pumpkins. They love fruits but they’re good only as a treat because the excess sugar drops the pH in their digestive system, making them more acidic. The specialized bacteria in their digestive system dies at a low pH and can result in a blood disease, sepsis, and can eventually kill your turtle.
Sulcata turtles also have a specialized bacteria. If their pH drops, they become acidic, which can kill the bacteria, cause sepsis and kill the turtle.
I’ve read sulcata turtles can live, 50, 100, 150 years. Captive turtles are documented to have lived 170 years. Otherwise, it’s hard to determine how old they are.
One other thing you may not know. Male sulcatas can be vicious to each other. In fights, they charge and ram into one another in an attempt to separate their foes’ skins from their shells or they try to turn them over so they cook in the sun or are more exposed to predators.
Some of Adam Pottruck’s earliest memories involved going outside, flipping over rocks and branches in search for any critters he could find and learning about them. The learning continues through his Adam’s Animal Encounters educational outreach. Located in Bokeelia, Adam visit schools, camps, birthdays and events. He also offers private tours at his facility in Bokeelia to share information about animals he’s rescued, their habitats and what they like to eat. Throughout the years, he and wife Loran have provided better lives for hundreds of species through rescuing, rehabilitating, and re-homing less fortunate animals. To learn more about Adam’s Animal Encounters, go to adamsanimalencounters.com.