As I have mentioned before, January has turned out to be ‘rescue’ month.

An acquaintance brought round a tiny tortoise rescued from the unwelcome attention of dogs while she was walking in the veld not far from where we live.

It looks in a pitiful state and has obviously been subject to sharp jaws before as the damage to its shell is old. We know from Bryan’s experience (see DAISY’S ESCAPE FROM CRUNCHING JAWS 18th May 2014 – yes, Bryan was Daisy back then!) that no amount of sticking plaster is going to help. He remains perfectly healthy and ambles about the garden busily every day while munching this or that.

shell damage

For C it was love at first sight and so the tortoise spent the night in an apple box at her house next door. Water as well as grass and other leaves were provided to tide it over.

Yesterday morning the apple box containing the tortoise was brought into my kitchen with great solemnity and I was informed that this tortoise is to be known as Luke. I could photograph it, but it would have to be released into her garden once she was home from school.

Lucky Luke for, according to the Field Guide to the Snakes and other Reptiles of southern Africa by Bill Branch, he is a male Parrot-beaked Tortoise (Homopus arealatus) – so called because of its strongly hooked beak – and is endemic to South Africa. It is also known as the Common Padloper.


Given the small size of this tortoise it is unsurprising to discover it is commonly eaten by secretary birds (safe here) and crows (hopefully Luke will remain hidden when they come cawing overhead) in the wild and, closer to human habitat, by dogs –  as his old wounds bear testimony.


They do not do well kept in a confined space. Luke is fortunate to have two secure adjoining gardens to roam in that contain very similar vegetation to what is available where he was found. Among the available food items he favours are: couch grass, dandelions, Echeveraia elegans, Echeveria pulvinate, Kikiyu grass, Mesembryanthemums, Wandering Jew and wonderlawn.

We hope that he will settle down and that he will end up being as content as Bryan seems to be in our garden.



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