Sunday, January 31, 2010

Give the Poor Tortoise a Drink!

- Hugh Forsyth -

The other day I was in the company of some good citizens of Prince Albert, eating dry bread and drinking tap water, when tortoise rescue stories started cropping up. Many folks had anecdotes about how they had found a large tortoise – bergskilpad – you see, wandering down Klipstraat, caught in the gutter, trapped in a fence, or in some other way at a loss.

Then they had loaded up the noble tortoise into the back of a vehicle and drove it back to its natural habitat – a barren and parched piece of veldt. The poor tortoise, maybe forty or fifty years old and weighing about twenty kilograms, arrived where it had started before, thirsty tired and very irritated. And the tortoise said: “Ag my liewe land! Hier het ek gister begin”. (Alle bergskilpaaie is Afrikaans sprekend, onthou dit.) “Nou moet ek dorptoe stap om water te gaan soek, en dit is te ver”.

My good neighbour, Val van der Riet, told me recently that she had found a big round tortoise in her back yard. Val has an unblemished record of nursing and caring and immediately recognised the need of the distressed creature. She gave the thirsty tortoise dish after dish of water which the grateful wanderer slurped up until it had almost exhausted her six free kiloliters, then thankful and replete, strode back up Gordon Koppie for the enduring edification and amusement of visitors and residents alike.

Recently Mr Canning did the good deed of taking a tortoise off the street and back to the veldt. For this good and possibly misguided act of charity, the tortoise urinated all over his pants. Tortoises have their own way of expressing displeasure.

If you find a bergskilpad in town, before you do the Good Samaritan act, give the poor creature a drink. That’s what it came for.

No comments: