The temperature had risen to over 30 degrees Celsius and the tarred road was giving off visible heat waves when this Angulate Tortoise ventured onto the road. No time to pose for photographs it seemed to say as I poked my lens out of the window: the road is hot and I have places to go!
He nonetheless looks beautiful and still unblemished by his travels through the rough bush and over rocky ground.
Bryan, the Angulate Tortoise, has lived in our garden for over four years now. We leave him to his own devices as there is plenty of food and water for him to help himself, and enjoy our irregular sightings of him wandering around the garden. “As slow as a tortoise” doesn’t apply to him for he can actually dart across the lawn at considerable speed! He generally hides in the shade of the rosemary bush, a daisy bush, or in the shrubbery during the heat of the day and scurries out to get water or to eat before disappearing again, leaving only the sound of rustling dry leaves in his wake.
Over the years he has traversed not only our garden – managing to avoid falling into our swimming pool – but that of our neighbours too. He makes himself at home in either the one garden or the other and determinedly returns to whichever one he feels most comfortable in at the time – even when picked up and returned to where it is thought he ought to be. So it is that we never worry when we haven’t seen him for some time, knowing that he is probably either under cover or visiting the neighbours.
That is until the other day when he ventured further than ever before: our neighbour happened to arrive home as Bryan was about to disappear into the verge over the road! Somehow he had got out of the gate and allowed his curiosity to take him to pastures new. He was unceremoniously picked up and brought ‘home’ – where we have spotted him on a couple of occasions since.
Now Bryan is a creature of the wild, rather than a house pet. Regular readers might remember he was rescued from a person who wished to eat him. Of course he is free to go and the time is bound to come when he will simply disappear. Nonetheless, I am relieved that this particular adventure was interrupted for the road he was heading for carries a lot of fast traffic and he wouldn’t stand much of a chance of crossing it.
Bryan, the angulate tortoise, that has made our garden his home for a number of years, has emerged from his winter hiding place to strut about the garden once more.
We have seen him eating grass and other plants in the garden, nibbling with intent before walking surprisingly fast to seek shelter from the sun. We cannot always find him for he hides so well, but it is comforting to know that he has survived the cold weather and has continued to grow.
With flowers blooming in such abundance, which omnivorous, grazing or browsing animal can resist such a feast? Certainly not this enormous Leopard Tortoise!
This Red Hartebeest was tucking in too:
So was this elephant:
As were these zebra:
These photographs were all taken in the Addo Elephant National Park.
The Leopard Tortoise is also called a Mountain Tortoise in direct translation of its Afrikaans name, Bergskilpad. According to the SANBI, the genus name Stigmochelys is a combination of the Greek words stigma meaning ‘marked’ and chelone meaning ‘tortoise’. The specific epithet pardalis is derived from the Greek word pardos meaning ‘spotted’ after the spotted shell.
These are the largest tortoises in South Africa and are always a joy to see in the wild. The Addo Elephant National Park is an excellent place to come across them – a visit there hardly seems complete without seeing at least one Leopard Tortoise. We have been fortunate to see several on our recent visits.
A light sprinkling of rain, gives this Leopard Tortoise a newly washed look as it crossed the tar road. Because of the absence of a nucal shield, these are the only tortoises able to raise their heads – and the only ones that can swim!
Here a Leopard Tortoise was making the most of the new green shoots of grass to emerge after the recent rain in the Addo Elephant National Park.
While they are mostly herbivorous, Leopard Tortoises have also been known to gnaw bones, and to eat carnivore faeces to obtain calcium for shell growth and the development of eggshells. This one appears to have damaged its horny beak, giving it a gap-toothed look – although they are actually toothless.
Even though they derive some liquid from their diet, Leopard Tortoises drink water readily when it is available. This one was making for the waterhole at Carol’s Rest at considerable speed!
I was driving out of town yesterday when an Angulate Tortoise walking next to the road caught my eye.
It felt akin to seeing another dog that mimics the look of your own pet in a place where this is impossible. Of course, I am referring to Bryan – the Angulate Tortoise that has made our garden his home for the past couple of years. I saw him the other day, chomping at the weeds on our lawn – he is looking healthy and is clearly growing, so we should measure and weigh him before summer ends.
This one has an undamaged carapace and was walking surprisingly quickly to get out of the sun beating overhead.