Special-Needs Desert Tortoises
Tootsa is about 40 years old, big domed, and one of the two largest female Residents. She has a harder time getting around than the others because her entire right arm was torn off at the shoulder by a Dog. Unlike most other residents, some of whom have also lost a leg or arm, Tootsa has no stump that would stabilize her when walking. She is somewhat quiet and reserved, but speaks up when she has something on her mind. She is one of the six “Librarians,” six female Tortoises who share a Dome during the warm months.
Chosovi is always on the move except when brumating (Reptile hibernation). She loves talking with the other Tortoises and humans. When she hears a voice, Chosovi immediately turns her head and walks over to say hello and hear the news. She was taken from the wild and kept as a “pet” for five years before being relinquished to a lab. Chosovi has become good friends with Alexis Turkey and Marguerite Chicken. They share watermelon together.
Along with Kele, Tanga is among the youngest residents, around eight years old. She lives with the other five Librarians sharing a Dome in the warm months from April through October. Like Tootsa, Tanga has lost her entire right arm. But in Tanga’s case, her arm was amputated at the shoulder because someone had tied a string around it and the tissue became necrotic. The surgery saved Tanga’s life. Since she came to Sanctuary, Tanga has grown! She is close friends with Kele and Tootsa and relishes clover and dandelions and strawberries.
Oh Sihu! When she arrived, we were told Sihu was female, so at first she lived with the Librarians. But caused all sorts of havoc, getting into arguments and always on the move. Closer examination by our wonderful Tortoise doctor identified Sihu as a Man Tortoise. He is an engine of energy and loves to dig burrows despite having lost his right arm leaving a stump. Sihu’s shell was quite damaged—the Dog chewed off a large piece. Even though the episode must have been terrifying and dreadfully painful, Sihu is strong and outgoing and enjoys meeting the Wild Turkeys when we go on walks outside the Domes. He even accepts Liam and Bridgett, two Saint Bernards! His shell has begun to grow back and he is growing too with the ample food he eats, sunshine, and exercise.
Saq is a quiet one. Her bests friends are Honovi and Loma, but mornings you will find her gathered with the rest of the Librarians all together warming in the sun, shell to shell. She has lost a portion of her left arm and her shell is discolored. Saq is about twenty years old and has opened up quite a bit since she first arrived. Although she only has a portion of her left front arm, she now walks erect on the remaining three limbs and is often the first to get up and out of the burrow in the morning.
Qale is our Tortoise elder, estimated to be near eighty years old. No matter what, he always beams. One look at him, and you cannot help but mirror back the beatific smile that graces his face. Qale loves life. His gular scute (the shell projection under a Tortoise’s throat) is somewhat malformed, curving up abnormally so that it almost blocks his ability to stretch his head and throat our entirely. This has not daunted him and he is able to dig with vigor and gusto into his watermelon, native-for-Tortoise grass mash and other greens. Qale is also very hospitable and welcoming, turning and walking over when he hears voices. Qaletaqa is our Buddha.
Loma has a beautiful sculpted shell, almost pale green with white. She, like the others, has had a hard life. She was taken from the wild and kept in a closet for five years, somehow having her left leg damaged. But like the other Tortoises, Loma’s inner light burns bright and she is eager to see new places, eat wonderful grasses, strawberries, Tortoise mash, and reach high for clover. Mornings you will see her cuddled close to Honovi and Saq sunning to warm her wonderful ectothermic self.
This beautiful strong soul is the youngest of the Male group. The first couple years were hard, as he had obviously suffered terrible deprivation. Instead of its usual bold dome shape, Kwahu’s shell was concave with a saddle-like appearance. Now, after several years in sanctuary, he walks erect and the shell has begun to lose it concavity. These are exciting years to come for Kwahu as he emerges from teenhood into maturity.
As the youngest and smallest, Kele is the sweet “baby” of the group. After several years in sanctuary, though, she has begun to grow and is now the size of Tanga when she arrived! Kele has also become much more confident and does not hold back when served her lunch, but digs in with gusto along with the other Librarians. Kele, like Qale, has an ever-present beatific smile despite losing her right leg to a Dog before she arrived here. Kele has also become much more talkative and enjoys striking out on her own to explore the Dome and even strides ahead when on “outside Dome” escapades.
Honovi is one of the more reserved Tortoises. She is deeply thoughtful and gracious with a personality perhaps much like Beth in “Little Women.” Although she has all her limbs, a portion of her left leg is missing from a Dog bite, and her shell is somewhat deformed and sway-backed like that of Kwahu. Often, she will bask on her own, dreaming dreams which we can only guess. Honovi is likely one of the younger set as well, being around twenty or so years of age.
Hania is amazing. In contrast to Qale, whose shell is flattish, Hania sports a hugely arched shell with spots that look like hearts. He too is always smiling, beaming goodwill and bon ami. Hania is a “mix,” being half Sonoran and half Mojavian (Gopherus agassizii and Gopherus morafkai). Hania is likely middle-aged and emanates a sense of calm confidence and ease. He is very thoughtful and reflective.
Chuchip has an unstoppable wild spirit. He has a proud arched shell and is incredibly powerful and independent. Chuchip is a leader and graciously, though, holds court for us humble humans. He has incredibly beautiful and penetrating green eyes. Chuchip relishes long wild walks through the woods going forth fearlessly with his powerful arms and stout legs. He underwent urolith surgery (removal of bladder stones, which Tortoises often develop under poor care). He is doing well, nonetheless.
Tiva is the oldest female in the group, being around sixty years old. There’s only one way to introduce Tiva: she is a “grand dame,” a great lady with great wisdom and grace. She has a very calm, gentle demeanor. Tiva loves to rise early and greet the sun every morning and usually retires to her burrow early. Every afternoon, around noon, she takes a short rest from the heat them emerges for the rest of the day until the day begins to fade.
Horton came after the Group. He was relinquished by a loving “mother” who, encountering her own health issues, felt he would best be served in Sanctuary. We are overjoyed to have Horton join us. Horton has an incurable respiratory condition not uncommon among captive-held Desert Tortoises, URTD (Upper Respiratory Tract Disease), which means he must stay at a fair distance from the other Tortoises so that they do not contract the disease. For this reason, he has his own dedicated Dome and brumation quarters. Horton is thriving. He is strong and beautiful. On occasion, his condition has flared and it passes quickly with treatment, whereupon he launches on his ongoing quest for The Perfect Dandelion.
Tommy is our elder, about ten or eleven years old, beautiful, and wise with the grace of a Queen. She arrived at the end of winter with nine others who were left abandoned for over a week in tiny cages with no food or water. Tommy likes her own space, to occasionally commune with fellow Lagomorphs, but mainly enjoys her private time. She prefers mature company and a good meal, especially carrots with tops, Italian parsley, Tuscan kale and timothy hay sticks. Tommy recently lost strength in her right leg and so does not hop or walk. She loves massages and her room with a view on the porch of the studio where she now lives.
roseMarie came to Sanctuary from the wonderful Red Barn Rabbit Refuge three hours north of here. She is about nine or ten years old. She fell head over very big heels with Coco Puff who is her devoted partner. roseMarie is very strong and possessive of her beloved Puff. Recently, she contacted a neurological condition which has left her left leg and arm paralyzed. The transition for her was difficult, having to shift from fierce independence to dependence on her human carer. She has adjusted well - although there are bittersweet moments for her- and enjoys her therapy and being outside with Puff.
The Puff was rescued form a backyard Rabbit “meat” business. Little did we know we rescued an Emperor. Puff has a very Napoleon-like, in-charge presence and keeps very busy making sure that the Je t’attendrai Chalet is in order and other Rabbits are towing the line. The love of his life is roseMarie and he has continued his devotion. He is an avid runner and digger and been a main architect of the maze of tunnels created by the Rabbits in the outdoor Habitat “mountains.”
Josie is one of nine Rabbits rescued from abandonment in tiny cages after a man sold his house and left them for over a week without food and water. Similar to Coco, Josie loves to dig and has also been a main contributor to the sanctuary’s “mountain tunnels.” This photo shows her peeking up from an intense digging. Mends-France is her beloved partner. Although Josie has an amazing gusto for life, she has a serious medical condition which often leads to aspirate pneumonia. She is required to take preventative medicine and has a restricted diet. Mendes is always at her side and attends to her tenderly. They enjoy spending summer nights out in the Habitat which is entirely “sealed” with wire to prevent any ingress.
Calais was adopted by a woman as a baby. She was so young that she fit in the palm of a human hand. Calais enjoyed a wonderful life until her “mother” became homeless, at which point she reached out to us. Despite her deep love and care for Calais, the woman overrode her own emotional needs so that Calais would be safe. When Calais arrived, she met Rabbits for the first time and has enjoyed expanding her bicultural lexicon! She is a force of Nature, having a deep and commanding presence. She is now fluent in Lagomorph and has found companionship with pierreMichel. Calais is almost nine.
Antoine and Etienne were relinquished when their “mother” had to move. They are not biological brothers but are deeply bonded. Etienne is outgoing and loves to dash around exploring. Antoine is more reserved and pensive but also loves to explore new places. Neither had spent time outdoors. Here, in sanctuary, they run on leaps and bounds through the Habitat and enjoy clover on the hoof. Both are also avid apple leaf and branch aficionados.
Mendes was named after the famous French premier. He is quiet and introspective and a natural carer. Although Josie is his great love to whom he is devoted, Mendes is always loving and caring to other Rabbits. He loves to explore outdoors and dig with Josie in the grassy clover mountains. Because of Josie’s health issues, his diet is also restricted, but he is “sneaked” a carrot which he loves.
pierre Michel was rescued from a torture ring. His initial exam revealed that the lower vertebrae in his back have been crushed from being harmed by a human. Although it was predicted that he would not be able to hop or walk, pierre Michel has proved this wrong. The ability to spend hours outside exercising at his own pace and will has healed his back immensely and he throws himself into running with his partner Calais with gusto. He is also somewhat deaf so it is important to approach him from the front so that he can see you.
Amelia was one of the nine rescued from abandonment in the back of a house. The first week or so here, Amelia had “episodes” where she would suddenly stare off and freeze. Other times, she was very fearful and bat with her hands if we tried to touch her. It is likely she had a head injury from being hit or dropped. In time, however, the episodes have disappeared and she is quite relaxed with humans. Amelia loves lavender in her hay. Her devoted companion Danton passed, sadly, so we are looking for a companion she can love. Mendes often goes out to the Habitat with her. Amelia is also an avid digger and has created amazing tunnels.
Lukas came to us from the wonderful Red Barn Rabbit Refuge. He is part angora and so sports a luxurious thick fluffy black coat. He is a teenager and full of energy and sparkles. Remy is his dear companion. Lukas loves to run and dash around and visit the other Rabbits. He, like Remy, loves carrots and the diverse greens they all are served daily.
Remy is one of the nine Rabbits rescued from abandonment in the back of a house without food or water for over a week. It is amazing that any survived. Remy looks a little like The Hare, as painted by Dürer. She is older than Lukas and less rambunctious, but the two of them have a wonderful time and are never far from each other. Remy prefers grazing over running and is an avid hay and lavender aficionado. She is very sweet, calm, and quite at ease at just being.
Henri Marcel is half lop and half Flemish Rabbit, hence he usually has one ear up and one at half-mast. He is the youngest of the group, about two years old, and the biggest. Henri Marcel is very outgoing and open talking and making friends and loves running outdoors and taking afternoon naps under the trees. He was rescued from a breeding business that were going to “get rid of him.” We are hoping that he and Amelia might enjoy each other’s company.
Sabina is one of our elder Grande Dames and also one of the nine abandoned for a week without food or water in a tiny cage exposed to cold weather. Her back is swayed from an injury when someone threw her against a wall. Similar to pierreMichel who also has a back injury, Sabina’s health has improved hugely with good nutrition, lots of room and time to move and exercise, and of course, with love. Teddy her dear partner, loved by all, sadly passed and it was a difficult loss for Sabina. We were thrilled, therefore, when she and Benedict became friends. They are now constant companions. Sabina’s smile has returned and they bask in each other’s love and care.
Benedict is the smallest of the group. But as “every inch is packed with dynamite,” he acquired the nickname Benedictator. Similar to The Puff, Benedict is a bit of a Napoleon. He was rescued from a torture ring and so for the first few weeks was quite nervous and worried. Now that he and Sabina have found each other, he has become much more relaxed and confident. Benedict loves to explore and run like a race car outside. He and Sabina are never far from each other, though.
Alexis is two and half years old. He and his comrade, Louis, were rescued from a backyard slaughterhouse. Alexis looks very similar to our Wild Turkey flock in terms of color and physique, but he is much larger because of selective breeding. This kind of deep manipulation and a regime of overfeeding and restricted movement. Similar to many Turkeys, Alexis has a heart condition and is on two medications to support him. He lives with devoted Marguerite Chicken, who true to the expression, Mother Hen’s him beautifully and with love. Alexis spends many hours communing with his wild counterparts.
Marguerite was relinquished and in poor health, but bounced back. She is elderly, about nine years old. She rooms with Alexis and is very devoted. Marguerite always has commentary and questions. When the Tortoises share the Lavender garden during their seasonal transition to brumation, Marguerite actively checks up on every shelled one. She and Alexis both love blueberries and fresh corn on the cob and she in particular revels in dust baths.
Walter Pidgeon is a wild pigeon who was found with a broken wing. The doctor was unable to mend it sufficient for flying. Nonetheless he is quite agile and able to hop up on branches. He rooms with Marguerite and Alexis and loves to take bird baths splashing water all around. Walter is a beautiful valiant soul.
Saint Baptiste is an amazing Rooster who arrived with three others from Brooklyn, New York, after being rescued by the wonderful United Poultry Concerns and their partner, Alliance to End Kaporos. When he first arrived his feet were terribly injured and infected because of the way he had been treated. Now, he walks well and fills the air with his LOUD song. Saint Baptiste is somewhat introverted and shy, but he talks a lot with his human friends and Bird friends.
Emil is also a kaporo survivor saved by the wonderful United Poultry Concerns and their partner Alliance to End Kaporos. He has a split beak from what is thought to be an injury and also poor diet (insufficient calcium). After a couple of months, his beak healed and he has recovered. Emil is an amazing crower and when he and Saint Baptiste form a chorus, you can hear them literally more than a mile away. Emil enjoys communing with the wild Turkeys and too is very fond of blueberries.
Louis arrived with Alexis. Sadly, his weight and breeding caused his to suffer terribly both in terms of his heart and his legs. When he arrived, at barely four months old, he could hardly walk and had shortness of breath. Within three months his joints gave out and he had to be carried. Louis had a few short months of joy and opportunity to enjoy the pines, creek, and other Turkeys. We were devastated when his heart gave out.