All tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises — and that fact doesn’t do much to help people distinguish between the two. But practically speaking, as turtles and tortoises go, most turtles live in or near the water and tortoises are primarily land creatures, which is clear in the build of the respective animals.
One good Samaritan recently mistook a large tortoise for a turtle, and it almost led to the critter’s demise. Thankfully, the well-meaning rescuer realized their error, and Peter the 5-year-old African spurred Sulcata tortoise was able to make his roundabout way home.
It started on Sunday evening when the 20-pound reptile managed to bust out of his enclosure in London, Ontario.
“He’s getting stronger and he was able to use his body to unhitch the nails that hold his house together,” owner Amanda Craddock told CBC News.
“He’s our pride and joy. We got him when he was just six months and now he’s five years old and he’s 20 pounds and we hope to have him another 80 years,” she said.
“Over the winter he gained five pounds and he was stronger than we were ready for. His house had been pushed over and was detached from our fence line.”
Craddock, who owns a catering business, attributed Peter’s strength and size to the scraps she has access to through her line of work.
“The guy lives off a few heads of Romaine lettuce a day,” she explained. “He’s a strong guy and he outsmarted us this time.”
Craddock began to ask neighbors if they’d spotted Peter, and soon many were out helping.
“We had all the neighbors looking,” she said. “I had to knock on people’s doors and say ‘Have you seen my reptile?’”
She posted to the Facebook group for the area, too, in case Peter had traveled even further abroad.
Of course, that location would be great for a swimming turtle, but not so much the large land reptile.
Later, the neighbor saw Craddock’s post and immediately realized what had happened. They reached out to Craddock, giving her the story and explaining where they’d left the pet.
“Their intentions were good,” Craddock said. “They had no idea he was a pet. Tortoises aren’t like turtles. They don’t swim like turtles, they drown in water.”
Craddock got to the park as soon as she could, “really worried” that she wouldn’t be able to find Peter or that she’d be too late. But thanks to Peter’s size, he’d attracted quite a bit of attention.
“And sure enough, when we got down here there were all sorts of families that had already found him and they were looking at him and checking him out …” Craddock said. “Luckily he’s smart and he didn’t want to go into the water.”
Now Peter’s home safe and sound, someone has learned the all-important distinction between turtle and tortoise and Craddock has fortified Peter’s pen to make sure he can’t sneak out so easily again.
“I’m so glad to have him back,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done without him.”
“He’s grounded now.”