Life and Death

1 Jun

This is an older story, I’ve got some great stuff from my vacation/wedding but I still need to process the videos/pictures.  If you don’t like it STFU because you know me, idgaf :).

For those of you who don’t know me that well, I used to have a sizeable reptile collection. Wait don’t freak out just yet. In the past during one particular year I had seven jackson chameleons, two parsons chameleons, two panther chameleons, a veiled chameleon, several corn snakes, king snakes, savannah monitor lizard, nile monitor lizard, five leopard gekkos, a tokay gekko, a leopard tortoise, two water turtles, and a few other things I can’t even remember right now. If you think I’m kidding, ask my mom. Now that I’m all grown up (cough cough) my collection is limited to some tortoises of various species and the leopard gekkos. I did my masters research on desert tortoises so I’ve always been fond of them and had a friend give me a trio that his gf’s grandfather had before it was illegal to own them. Last year they laid some eggs but as soon as they hatched leilani and kalea killed them all thinking they were toys :(. There was a sole survivor that I found huddled in a tiny burrow, he had just hatched out and was the last one out of the egg and never left the burrow. I named him lucky and I gave him to a friend to raise.
This year the tortoises left me about seven eggs, I was lucky enough to see the female burying the eggs and several days later dug them up and put them into an incubator, I figured they’d never hatch but I tried my best to remember temperature settings and humidity levels from when I hatched turtles in my lab at school. The incubation period was about three months or longer depending on temperature. Now here’s a weird fact, tortoise eggs are temperature sex determinate. In laymans terms it means the higher the temp, the eggs become females. The lower temps become males. I guess thats why females are so hot tempered ;).

At any rate a few weeks ago I came home and played with the pups. I saw the three tortoises outside feeding on the backyard lawn, the biggest was a huge old brute that would push around the other male and would come right up to me. He was also exceptionally horny ALL THE TIME and would mount the female and make grunting sounds. I saw him making his rounds around my backyard and then as the evening closed he went back into his burrow. In the morning he would awaken when it got hot again and wander about. He crawled up to the mouth of the burrow and layed his head down.

I wasn’t alarmed because tortoises often do this when they sleep. But when night came this time he made no attempt to go back to his home. I gently tapped on his shell, normally this would wake him up and he’d pull his head back. But this time he lay still. I let out a big sigh and lifted his huge heavy body up and peered into his unblinking eyes. He was gone.

I was really sad. I’ve never dealt with death well and even this time I had to blink back tears. I told myself he was very old, a tortoise that size was well over 80 years or more. I dug a big hole in the backyard and carefully placed him in there before covering him up and wishing him well on his voyage to where ever tortoises go. Heavy hearted I wiped off my feet and trudged inside. I washed off my hands in the sink and then headed into one of my rooms.

And then I heard it, a soft scuffle in one corner. As I peered towards there I saw that inside the incubator there were several broken eggs. And as i went closer in disbelief I saw that tiny tortoises had hatched out that morning and were crawling around the box.

Baby tortoises are the cutest reptiles you’ll ever see. They have wrinkled heads that look like old men with fat folds in their skin. They still have a tiny bit of yolk under their shells and you have to wait a few days until the yolk is fully absorbed and falls off before they feed. I counted five healthy babies, they were born the day their father died. Unbelievable. When you think about it, there is only one way to be immortal in life. When you have children they are a part of you, then they have children and their children have children. All the way down the generations a tiny part of you survives that line and in a way you become immortal.  It’s an amazing fact of life, hopefully I’ll be able to pass my life down as well :).


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