As a small boy, I had many pet animals, a budgerigar, a guinea pig, a dog and a tortoise, each of them still holding a fond spot in my memory, the budgie sitting on my finger its’ claws holding tight, the big black bulging eyes of the guinea pig, my dog racing up to me with such excitement after we went to pick him up from a weeks stay in a kennel and he pee’d up my leg, to the hard shell of the unfriendly just give me food tortoise.
There have been animals in my life through friends, the media, TV, films etc, Lassie the sheepdog, Kaa the hypnotic snake in Jungle Book, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Flipper the dolphin, and then the Ninja Turtles.
Many of my friends had pets, one in particular had a terrapin who I called Fred. Even though Fred showed no friendliness to humans, I had a soft spot for him, arranging for him to have a larger home with a little plastic palm tree and in which we added a “beach” of pebbles so he could, if he wished, pull himself out of the water.
I was a little too old to get caught-up with all the hype and commercialism of the Ninja Turtles, but my mind certainly went back to the children’s cartoon TV series as I stood on a beach in the Galápagos Islands observing the tracks of the turtles as they made their way from the Pacific Ocean to lay their eggs.
Also on the Galapagos Islands I visited the giant tortoises, seeing Lonesome George, (click to see pictures) the last male specimen of his breed, or so it may seem, as researchers are trying to find him a mate.
It was visiting a friends’ and colleagues home in Italy with anticipation, as he had told me he had two turtles. I expected that in his back garden there would be a ornamental pond, very much like the Kek Lok Si, Goddess of Mercy Temple, in Penang Malaysia, which has the Liberation Pond full of turtles.
It was then that I started to wonder, what is the difference between a tortoise, a turtle and a terrapin? What environments do each live in.
The biggest differences between the three is the environments they live in. Essentially a tortoise is a land dwelling reptile, a turtle is a sea water, ocean dwelling reptile, whereas a terrapin is a freshwater or brackish water (river estuary) dwelling reptile. Although in many countries there is no distinction made between the three species, they are all referred to as turtles, or testudines, or chelonian, which the latter is often used by veterinarians and scientists. In Spain for example they use the word “tortuga” for all three, but add-on the the descriptive word of “terrestre” for tortoise, “marina” for turtles and “de rio” for terrapins.
Another distinction can be found in their feet. Tortoise have short stubby legs whereas, turtles and terrapins will have webbed feet, with ocean going turtles having developed flippers to propel themselves through the water.
For the northern hemisphere countries where tortoises are not a native animal or reptile, they are a protected animal, and only held as pets, but in hotter counties it is common to see wild tortoises roaming the countryside. It came as quite a shock to me the first time I saw a wild tortoise in Gaziantep and Antalya (Turkey).
So recently I saw the tortoise in the photograph below roaming my back garden in Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia. I have never seen a tortoise with markings on its’ head, two yellow stripes.
Can anyone tell me the breed of tortoise please?
What breed of Malaysian tortoise is this please?