An exotic turtle found wandering very slowly in Richmond, B.C. in a spinach field, can be adopted if deemed healthy by the SPCA.
The male sulcata, named Frank Tank by his keepers, weighs about 35 pounds, but can reach four or five times that size when fully grown.
And with a lifespan of up to 150 years and an unstoppable urge to burrow, vet Dr Adrian Walton warns that whoever takes in a turtle should be prepared with a succession plan, not to mention the carpentry skills to brace the walls.
“Sulcatas are one of the largest turtles we have. And the reason we call them tanks is because of their incredible ability to dig into most people’s houses,” said Walton, who works at Dewdney Animal Hospital in Maple Ridge. About 45 kilometers east of Vancouver.
“These can be wonderful pets if you put in the time and effort and have long-term planning and family members who are willing to take the animal in after you die,” she said.
A Facebook post featuring Frank and Walton has been viewed more than 30,000 times, but so far no one has come forward with the animal claim.
Shelley Smith helped wrangle the snapping turtle after she spotted workers she thought were looking at a rock in a field south of Richmond on Gilbert Street next to her home in Richmond.
“I looked again and saw it moving. Ever so slowly, but it was moving,” Smith said. “I walked by and we were all looking at it and going, ‘Jeez!’ It is a big turtle. And he was just looking at us like, “Hey, help me.”
Smith and workers moved the turtle to a kiddie pool and then called the SPCA. His working theory is that like many other animals he found during his 12 years living on the streets, usually kittens and rabbits, Frank Tank was probably abandoned.
Walton thinks so too. She says animal welfare organizations and veterinarians are inundated with abandoned pets, many of which were purchased during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Frank Tank still needs a clean bill of health before he can be put up for adoption. According to Walton, he is suffering from a minor case of shell rot, probably caused by being stuck in a small and damp wall.
But Kahlee Demers, manager of the Maple Ridge SPCA, which now cares for Frank, said she’s optimistic.
“Right now, we’re not sure how long he’s been on the streets of Richmond,” Demers said. “We’ve noticed some ragged breathing… so we’re making sure he doesn’t have any underlying conditions.”
“We’ve gotten a huge amount of people interested in Frank the Tank, which is great,” he said.
Sulcata tortoises are native to Africa and are considered endangered, mainly because many have been taken from the wild for the pet trade. It is illegal to bring a sulcata turtle or eggs into Canada without an import permit.
Walton believes that Frank the tank would make a great pet in the right situation and space.
“A small bedroom would work great [as tortoise housing], as long as you can strengthen the walls during the winter months. But in the summer months it would be nice to have some type of land or paddock where he can explore,” he said.
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