- Pets and Animals
Bo and Bella, Our Endangered California Desert Tortoises
California Desert Tortoises Join Our Family
When I was young, we had two Texas desert tortoises that we bought at a pet store. (These days it is illegal to sell the Texas or California desert tortoises and they are protected by the Fish and Game.) Several years later, we were given two sickly California desert tortoises (born in captivity) in the hopes that we would know how to take care of them. They were only about as big as my palm, and about 2 years old. Their shells were soft, pale, and their eyes were closed, but they were alive!
Note: This picture is of the grown up female tortoise, Bella, and her four hatchlings!
(All photos by SharpLee on HubPages.)
Did you know?
The scientific name for the California desert tortoise is Gopherus agassizii.
Tortoises are reptiles.
Sickly Tortoises Survived!
My mother applied special eye drops, carefully gave them baby food green beans, peas and spinach, and drops of water to drink. She also made sure they got indirect sunlight. Slowly they improved, their eyes opened, and they started responding. Eventually they could eat little bits of green veggies and drink water out of a lid. As they grew, they were able to go out back in a little pen on the grass with shade available. We named them Bo and Bella. When they grew larger, we tried letting them out with our two Texas tortoises, but Pokey, the female, kept turning them over; so, we let them grow larger and kept them separated from the others.
Male and Female!
When they reached about the same size as the Texas tortoises, we tried letting all four tortoises out in the yard together. Things went pretty well. We had to make sure the tortoises were getting along with each other, and they pretty much stayed with their "own kind." The California tortoises dig burrows, and they dug a hole under one of our trees. They would go in there at night, and the Texas tortoises had other shelter. It wasn't until the tortoises were much older that we could tell that Bella was actually a female, and Bo was a male. We had picked the right names!
Have you ever seen a California desert tortoise?
Well the years passed, and one day Bella surprised us! She dug a hole and laid some eggs. We had some instructions from the tortoise societies (see links below) on what to do. We carefully removed them from the dirt, keeping them in the same position as they were, and placed them in a terrarium. We incubated the eggs, but did not have any luck with them hatching. At this time, we had decided to move the tortoises to my new home. We secured the backyard (tortoises are escape artists!) and provided shelter for them. The next May, Bella kept digging holes, and we watched her carefully each day. Finally, she laid some eggs and we incubated them again. We regularly checked on the eggs, making sure the temperature and humidity were correct, and were so excited when the first baby tortoise hatched! In the next two days another three were hatched, also!
Three California Desert Tortoises
These are three of the California desert tortoises that are offspring of Bo and Bella. They are about 10 years old in this photo.
Something to think about! Some facts about tortoise skeletons.
Above is a diagram from Wikipedia. The "endoskeleton" of the tortoise is fused to the shell or "exoskeleton".
The top of the shell is called the carapace.
The bottom of the shell is called the plastron.
The "squares" on the shell are called scutes.
Did you know a tortoise has a skeleton?
Turtles and Tortoises Book
This is a highly rated book on the care of pet turtles and tortoises.
Milton- The Desert Tortoise
See Milton the desert tortoise at the San Dimas Canyon Nature Center. This video gives good information about the California desert tortoise.
Links with information on tortoises and turtles:
- California Turtle & Tortoise Club
This site has tortoise care information, describes how to get permits and licenses for your tortoises, and links for tortoise societies in your area.
- Arizona Game and Fish Department
Arizona also has the wild Gopherus agassizii tortoise. This site has good information on the wild tortoise and the captive tortoise in homes.
Texas tortoise information.