It all happened rather quickly. The first week we picked up baby chicks and the next I was taking a quick trip over to my parent’s (three hours away) to pick up my horse, where she had stayed while I was in Seattle, and my goat who had also been at my parents, but had been in with a buck at a breeder’s house for the previous few weeks. On the drive home, I found myself with a baby desert tortoise in my lap.
You see, I had been recommended a particular goat breeder from a friend. Her farm has big trees and spotted goats all around. There are small chickens that run around and one particular goat that runs free with the dogs and scratches her butt on tires and trees. A Great Dane, and a Chihuahua will greet you upon arrival. When I went to pick up my goat I was able to see the many goats there, as well as meet the baby tortoises I’d told him about. I loved them. The woman brought out a baby tortoise and quietly asked if I’d like to have one.
“As I’ve gotten to know you and the way you treat your animals, I think I can trust that you could keep him safe,” she said.
She found a spare container to put the little turtle in, along with a Mulberry leaf for the long drive, and sent him home with us.
I immediately felt as if a great honor had been bestowed upon me to protect this tiny, rare piece of my beloved desert. Desert Tortoises are a threatened species, and it is illegal to release a captive tortoise into the wild (because it can spread disease and disrupt uniquely adapted genetics in wild populations.) They also cannot be removed from the state of Arizona (or the state from which they are originally from, Arizona in my case) and can live for 60-80 years or more! Apparently people find the tortoises on the road and bring them in, or take them home and can’t keep them and they end up Wildlife Refuges, which then hold adoptions for them. If someone adopts a tortoise who later has babies, they must keep the babies no longer than 24 months.
There are many Desert Tortoises up for adoption from your local refuge (in Arizona and California and perhaps other states) but there is a detailed application and approval process to go through first.
With my horse in the trailer, my little goat tucked in a carrier and a tiny desert tortoise on my lap, we headed home.
“Now what should we name him?” I asked Brent.
Suomy is a brand of company that makes motorcycles helmets. Fitting, I thought, and so it was.
Estimated birthday: July 2016
Picked up: November 27th, 2016
Shell length: 2.43 inches
JUST UNDER 1 YEAR: March 2017
Shell length: 3 inches
At this age Suomy wasn’t terribly interested in humans, while not at all shy about hanging out and snuggling up to warm human bodies when we lay on the floor with him.
2 YEARS OLD: June 2018
We have noticed Suomy becoming increasingly friendly, coming up to us when he sees us near his enclosure. He high-tails it at top baby tortoise speed over to hands with potential green snacks when he sees them. During the warm summer months he is out often, sunbathing, napping long and soaking long hours. He is developing a love for hibiscus flowers, but still not into cactus apples yet.