As I was out running errands on Saturday, I saw what I thought to be man playing with his radio-controlled toy. Sure enough he was out there again on Sunday, only this time I got a better look and it definitely wasn't a toy on the sidewalk...
A nice long sidewalk is the perfect place to stretch the ol' legs.
That's right. It's a man taking his pet tortoise for a walk. Hey, they need exercise too right? A perfect time to do so while we're having beautifully warm temperatures (finally) in Edmonton. I stopped by with my digital camera to talk to owner Jeff Billyard about the fascinating scene and learn more about his pet.
Easily mistaken for a radio-controlled car from a distance.
Jeff, who graciously took a portion of his time (the tortoise wasn't racing away anywhere), told me that 'Franklin' is a 3-year-old African Spur Tortoise (or Geochelone sulcata as it's known in scientific terminology) and that he's cared for Franklin since he was smaller than the palm of his hand. Though, he wasn't a cheap purchase, Jeff and his family consider 'Franklin' to be an excellent value for a pet, who will probably live longer than most of us. Apparently, Tortoises can live an average of 60-80 years, with some living over the ripe age of 100! Astoundingly, he already weighs in at around 25 pounds but can grow up to 200!
Purchased at a city pet store, Franklin is a treasured member of the family, attracting interest from all who see the pair. Jeff said he doesn't mind the company of strangers when he's taking Franklin for a walk, and educates the guests on the difference between a tortoise and a turtle. He finds it relaxing to take Franklin for a walk after a tough day at work.
What some of the local (and puzzled) dogs saw.
Surprisingly, Franklin moves quite fast. Not as speedy as an average dog or cat, but at the pace of a smaller canine. He had already moved forward several feet before my camera had a chance to focus on the hard-shelled creature.
It was also quite amusing to see parents walk by and say "Ohhh, you're the man with the turtle! My son/daughter told me about you!" as if they didn't believe their children.
Owner Jeff Billyard and Franklin.
The tortoise is a herbivore, meaning he eats fruits and vegetables. While Jeff had fed him lettuce and strawberries when I was there, Franklin found the grass and clover patches to his liking, rapidly devouring any tiny, white blossoms.
Stopping for snacks...
...of tasty clover...yummm!
Franklin seems pretty content. Who couldn't love a face with a smile like that?
I got a chance to experience what Franklin's legs felt like and they are quite unique. Though the 'spurs' look rough and sharp, they're actually more like cartilage and feel rigid, yet soft. He has quite a long tongue as well with which he uses to get at vegetation.
I've seen Tortoises and Terrapins before, and even went snorkeling alongside Sea Turtles in the waters of Hawai'i, but this was certainly an interesting sight you don't see in Edmonton, Alberta everyday. A welcome change from the usual four-legged friend! Ironically, I had saved 2 frogs from death by lawnmower earlier. It would seem that reptiles and amphibians were on the universe's order of events for me that day.
You can find more about African Spur Tortoises here and here.
Note: Geochelone sulcata or 'African Spur Tortoise' is often confused with 'African Spur-thigh Tortoise.' From what I've just briefly researched, it seems that using the scientific name helps to distinguish the different reptiles.
Update: I've displayed some of the tortoise photos readers have sent me at this other posting.