A Rescue Facility for Tortoises and Box Turtles
This all started with a Russian tortoise named Trogdor, a box turtle named Stuart, and a sulcata named Thor. Sometime in the late 2000s while visiting a pet store on a date with my husband, I became rather enchanted with a Russian tortoise that the store had for sale. The employee I spoke with couldn’t tell me anything about the animal; I wanted to know if it was wild caught or captive bred, and about how old it was. He didn’t know, but laughed at me – actually laughed! – when I said I wanted to know if I was looking at a 5 year old tortoise or a 50 year old tortoise. Apparently that was a funny question, but to this day I’m not sure why.
Fast forward a few days and my sweet husband presents me with a gift. You guessed it: the Russian tortoise from the pet store. We named him Trogdor, and kept him until we learned just how magnificent of escape artists Russian tortoises can be. Because we had one tortoise, friends recommended me as a “tortoise keeper” to an adventuresome woman who was leaving the country to travel to far away lands following her husband’s job, except she couldn’t take her three-toed box turtle, Stuart, with her. So Stuart came to live with me, and to this day I look forward to seeing her sweet curious face every single morning.
Circa 2012 I received a call from a friend and colleague who is a very experienced herpetologist and whom I’ve always held in high esteem (hi, Andy!). He said that a sulcata had been abandoned in a field, and could I care for it?
“What the heck am I supposed to do with a sulcata?”
The sulcata in question was none other than Thor, who really got the whole idea of rescue marinating for me. My friend quickly educated me about basic sulcata husbandry, and we had a long talk about how often these animals become neglected or abandoned because their keepers can’t care for them anymore. The zoos are overrun, and there’s just no place for them to go, so they are often dumped and left to fend for themselves. This presents a whole myriad of issues that are too long and complex to go into today, but suffice to say it’s not a good idea.
Life happened, we moved out into the country, built a fence for a garden, went through several different (and horribly ugly) iterations of enclosures for Stuart and Thor, and did a lot of thinking. And tinkering. And more thinking. And finally one day after work was over, the kids’ soccer practices were over, and everybody had been fed, I started fiddling around with blog sites and created a free little WordPress page called Central Texas Tortoise Rescue. And then I figured out how to create a Facebook page. And then people started contacting us.
It actually works. If you build it, they really will come. We couldn’t believe that a) people were able to find us in the vast world of the interwebs, and b) there was actually a legitimate need in the community that we could help serve in a very unique way. We were just your run-of-the-mill overworked soccer parents with full time jobs trying to hold it together and wondering how many more nights this week we would be eating macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. It had never occurred to us that we had anything special to offer, or that we could do something that really mattered.
This really matters.
In the very early days, we hadn’t done any fundraising yet and honestly didn’t even know how to begin, but were faced with a sick tortoise. Luckily, we had a few donations, but we quickly spent all of them on vet care for the sick animal. And then we spent several hundred dollars of our own money on vet care. Finally, any extra that we could squeeze out of our budget ran out and we made the very difficult decision that our family couldn’t support his care any longer. Right then and there, we decided that money should never be the reason we lose an animal, so we turned ourselves into a non-profit and the rest, as they say, is history.