The male juvenile sulcata tortoise weighs close to 35 pounds, but could reach 5 times the size when grown
An exotic tortoise found wandering — very slowly — in a Richmond, B.C. spinach field may go up for adoption if deemed healthy by the SPCA.
Named Frank the Tank by his foster caregivers, the male juvenile sulcata weighs close to 35 pounds, but could reach four or five times that size once fully grown.
And with a lifespan of up to 150 years and an unstoppable urge to dig, veterinarian Dr. Adrian Walton cautions that whoever takes in the tortoise should be prepared with a succession plan, not to mention the carpentry skills to reinforce walls.
"Sulcatas are one of the largest tortoises that we have. And the reason that we call them tanks is because of their incredible ability to dig through, well, most people's houses," said Walton, who works at Dewdney Animal Hospital in Maple Ridge, about 45 kilometres east of Vancouver.
"These can be wonderful pets if you take the time and effort, and have long-term planning and family members who are willing to take on this animal after you die," he said.
A Facebook post featuring Frank and Walton has been viewed over 30,000 times, but so far no one has come forward to claim the animal.
The aptly named Shelley Smith helped wrangle the tortoise after spotting workers looking at what she thought was a rock in the field beside her Gilbert Street home in Richmond, south of Vancouver.
"I looked again and saw … it was moving. Ever so slowly — but moving," said Smith. "I walked over and we were all looking at it and saying 'jeez!' That's a big turtle! And he was just looking around at us like 'Hey, help me.'"
Smith and the workers moved the tortoise to a kiddie pool and then called the SPCA. Her working theory is that like many other animals she's found in her 12 years living on the street — usually kittens and bunnies — Frank the Tank was probably abandoned.
Walton thinks so too. He says animal welfare organizations and vets are being overrun with abandoned pets, many that were purchased during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Frank the Tank still needs a clean bill of health before he can be put up for adoption. He's suffering from a minor case of shell rot, which was likely caused by being stuck in a small and damp enclosure, according to Walton.
But Kahlee Demers, the manager of the Maple Ridge SPCA, which is now looking after Frank, said she is optimistic.
"Right now we're unsure how long he was out roaming the streets of Richmond," Demers said. "We have noticed raspy breathing … so we're making sure he has no underlying conditions."
"We've received an enormous amount of people interested in Frank the Tank, which is awesome," she said.
Sulcata tortoises originate in Africa and are considered endangered, largely because so many are taken from the wild for the pet trade. It is illegal to bring a sulcata tortoise or egg into Canada without an import permit.
Walton believes Frank the Tank will make an awesome pet in the right situation and space.
"A small bedroom would work perfectly [as tortoise housing], as long as you could reinforce the walls during the winter months. But during the summer months, it would be good if there's some type of acreage or paddock where he can explore," he said.
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