Reptile Romance In Jerusalem


How do you get a 55-pound turtle out of her shell — her social shell, that is?

You turn her into a living skateboard.

That’s what they did at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo the other day.
Arava, a 10-year-old African Spurred Tortoise, arrived a few months ago from a petting zoo in southern Israel. Paralyzed in her hind legs for undetermined reasons, she was depressed, lethargic and immobile, even by turtle standards, zoo officials said. She had no suitors.

So the zoo outfitted the reptile — scientific name: Geochelone sulcata — with a set of wheels, attached to a board strapped to her stomach.

“We had to equip her with a metallic cart with two wheels in order for her to be able to move,” said Shmulik Yedvad, a zoo spokesman.

The African Spurred Tortoise, the largest found in mainland Africa, inhabits the southern edge of the Sahara desert, and is a popular house pet in Europe.

Now mobile, Arava is getting around, spurred but not spurned. Her wheels apparently impressed a 10-year-old male turtle at the zoo; the pair has mated, keepers report. A lengthy social life probably beckons. The African Spurred Tortoise usually lives 50 to 60 years, sometimes up to a century.