Monday, March 01, 2010

Alas, Eggs no more...

Back in 1991, I took in a tortoise - my first one, a chaco tortoise (Geochelone chilensis). She came to me from a family who had purchased her 10 years before from a local pet store. She was full grown at that time, a wild-caught import from Argentina.

Figuring out a tortoise's age is never full-proof if you don't have information on when they were hatched. Counting the rings on their scutes (the individual scales on their carapace, the part of the shell on their backs) is not accurate, as, like trees, in good years there may be more than a growth ring, and in bad years, no growth at all. Once the tortoise is full grown, there may be no perceptible growth 'rings' since the new scales are rarely larger than the previous year's scale. Age takes a toll, too, wearing down the sharp margins of the scutes, blurring the lines. That being said, when I got her, I counted: there were 60 rings. So, Chaca was probably 60-80 years old when she died this week.

She was healthy through the years, her only problem being the occasional beak overgrowth. Only once did I have to resort to filing it down with a Dremel; gnawing on corn on the cob and melon rinds, and grazing on the forage growing outside, kept her beak naturally trimmed.

Through most of the years I had her, I didn't take many photos of any of my critters. She was difficult to photograph, anyway, as she never lost her "Holy crap! A human is looking at/approaching/touching me! Dive! Dive! Dive!" reaction, quickly pulling her head in and tucking it behind her elbows. As leery as she was of humans, she was very tolerant of the other tortoises, and box turtles, and didn't seem to mind when Sluggo, my blue-tongue skink who died two winters ago, and the occasional iguana, used her back as a pillow to rest on when sunning themselves.

Chaca, as you've no doubt guessed, was the creator of the Eggs. We will miss her.