Yesterday I decided to escape the hurly-burly for a little while and wander off on my own – something I do from time to time. I like to get off the beaten track. Yesterday was a new experience for me though, as I went out with the objective of tracking down and finding wild tortoises in the scrub on a nearby hill.
Now, since tortoises are not native to Bedfordshire (not even the 11th Duke of Bedford, who was responsible for introducing so many alien species, managed to introduce tortoises) it’s reasonable to assume that I’m not at home. In fact, we’re on holiday in Turkey this week.
I’m no expert on tortoises, but I came across one a few years ago in a similar environment and at the back of my mind I’ve wanted to find another. When we arrived at our hotel I noticed the undeveloped countryside in the vicinity and decided to have a look. The land here in Turkey is arid and dry and the ecosystem is characterised by water saving species. The vegetation is scrubby and thorny, designed to resist being eaten by the few animal and bird species. Tortoises fit in well here, being able to conserve water and go without drinking for long periods, getting most of the fluid they need from the plants on which they feed.
Anyhow, I decided to take a walk and look for tortoises. I’m used to having odd ideas like this. Most of the time they come to nothing. Sometimes, just sometimes, they’re successful. After a couple of hours of hopping over limestone outcrops and thrashing through thorn bushes I’d managed to find a couple of splendid tortoises. They’re funny things to see in the wild – I think I’m used to seeing them as pets and they seem somehow out of place in the countryside. I was jolly pleased to have found them because they’re a new species that I deliberately set out to find (based on a minimum of knowledge) and I actually managed to do so.
The only thing I can remember about wild tortoises is that you shouldn’t pick them up. Apparently they’re quite sensitive to stress. One of their defensive behaviours is to urinate when attacked. Not only does this mean you could get covered in tortoise pee, it means that the tortoise loses vital liquid that it may have difficulty replacing. So, if you come across a tortoise in the wild please leave it where it is, unless it is in obvious danger (like in the middle of the road or something).
This post is nothing to do with badgers, I’m afraid, but it was an interesting diversion nonetheless. As I always say, wherever you are, there’s always wildlife to be found…