Tortoises – Shameless Exhibitionists of the Animal Kingdom

We spent a magical holiday in the Caribbean this summer, on a teensy island inhabited by beautiful tortoises.  Everywhere we went, we would be surprised by a gorgeous shell with head and legs, crossing the road, walking through the grass, on a path in the middle of nowheresville.

Tortoise in Mustique

Image from MalandKerry blogspot. Click for source.

 

A friend told us that the tortoises are extremely sensitive to human vibes – if you are calm with the tortoises, they will reciprocate. If you are freaked around a tortoise, they will get crazed too.  She also noted that tortoises love red hibiscus and are known to stand up on two legs to reach the yummy (to them) flowers.

220px-Hibiscus_flower_TZ

Hibiscus. Image from Wikipedia. Click for source

After I learned that, I kept a lookout for tortoises so I could feed them hibiscus and be all zen with them.  One day, I came upon a lone tortoise.  As peaceful as I could be, I picked some hibiscus and slowly approached to treat him to lunch.  I gently laid the hibiscus in front of him and he HISSED at me like he wanted me dead. Dang. I was really hurt at the ingratitude and astonished that tortoises could make noise.

What I didn’t realize until later in the day was that poor guy was looking to mate and I was getting in between him and his gal.  In fact, it seemed it was mating day on the island.  On my way from the beach I came upon a couple who treated me to their entire courtship and later, I saw my hisser mating as well. This is what I saw in both cases:

1.  The female stood there all coy while the male approached her from behind.

2.  When the male came close, the female started walking away while the male “chased” her – mind you, they are tortoises, so they weren’t exactly cheetahs in heat.

3. The female stopped for a sec while the male mounted her.  He was pretty agile, considering the shells and all.

4.  The male made a call that sounded like a bird, and then  the female started walking away again.

The whole shebang lasted maybe two minutes.  (Insert your own joke about an old boyfriend here)

Both times, those tortoises knew I was watching and they could have cared less.  Apparently they mate wherever the hell they feel like it and the world can watch for all it matters to them.  I must admit I enjoyed the show and I guess the rest of the islanders do too as they have erected a wonderful sculpture of mating tortoises with a bench nearby to enjoy the artwork.

tortoise1

Image from panoramio.com. Click for source

 

 

 

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