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.


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.


Image from Click for source





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