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Meet our Sanctuary Tortoises!


(Hopi: Hummingbird)

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.


(Hopi: Bluebird)

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.


(Hopi: Rainbow)

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.


(Hopi: Flower)

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.


(Hopi: Blue Star)

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.


(Hopi: Guardian of the People)

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.


(Hopi: Beautiful cloud rising)

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.


(Hopi: Eagle)

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.


(Hopi: Sparrow)

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.


(Hopi: Strong Deer)

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.


(Hopi: Spirit warrior)

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.


(Hopi: Deer Spirit)

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.


(Hopi: Dance)

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.


(Old English: horu 'dirt' and tūn 'settlement, farm, estate')

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.

Tiva feasting

Tortoises and carer