After a cold and not so wet winter we all look forward to the beautiful signs of Spring.
Driving in Franskraal, one can often see tortoises crossing our roads. I always stop and put it on the side of the road in the direction that it is walking. I hate seeing our tortoises being driven over. The interesting thing is, I do not know much about these beautiful creatures so I decided to read up on some facts.
Did you know:
The species is classified as "Protected Wild Animal" in the Nature Conservation Ordinance No. 19 (2000), and it is therefore strictly illegal to remove this animal from the wild. It may also not be transported, possessed, imported or exported without a permit. So…to some Tannies in Franskraal, you’re not supposed to have them as pets.
In SA this tortoise is uniformly known as the "angulate" tortoise in English, and as the "Rooipens skilpad" ("red-belly tortoise") in Afrikaans.
Its a small, shy tortoise with a variable shell, they have "bowsprits", which are protrusions of the "gular" shields. Plastons under their chins are used by males to fight for territory or females. They have 5 claws on their front legs and 4 on each back leg.
Their natural habitat is the fynbos, karoo, albany thickets and coastal scrub ("Strandveld") vegetation of the south-western part of South Africa.
Their natural predators of the species include mongoose, jackals, badgers, baboons and predatory birds which attack the infants. Perhaps the largest killers of this species in its natural habitat are the periodic wildfires, which can kill hundreds of thousands at a time. Deaths from tortoises crossing busy roads are prevalent in our area. Drivers are encouraged to stop and, if they wish, assist it crossing the road in the direction that it was going.
The tortoise will usually retract its head, feet and tail into the shell when threatened. Another defence mechanism is that it will readily eject the liquid contents of the bowels.
Their lifespan is more than 30 years and sexual maturity for both males and females is reached at 10–12 years. The mating season lasts from September to April, male angulate tortoises exhibit intensive male-male combat. This involves vigorous ramming, its fierce and can flip one another over.
The egg is retained in the tortoise body for a period that varies from 23 to 212 days, Once the egg is fully developed, rainfall stimulates egg laying and the female will usually start searching for a suitable nesting site shortly after the rain has softened the ground. The whole nesting process can take 2 to 3 hours. Depending on the season, incubation takes 90 to 200 days. Hatchlings weigh 8 to 12 g and emerge after the first autumn rains. In ideal conditions, female angulate tortoises can produce six clutches of eggs per year.
How amazing is that... let's protect these beautiful gentle creatures...