Local family creates safe haven for tortoises

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Local family creates safe haven for tortoises


Three-toed box turtle at Central Texas Rescue Center.



Photo courtesy Krista McDermid

Three-toed box turtle at Central Texas Rescue Center.
Photo courtesy Krista McDermid

Three-toed box turtle at Central Texas Rescue Center.
Photo courtesy Krista McDermid

Three-toed box turtle at Central Texas Rescue Center.
Photo courtesy Krista McDermid

Brianna Benitez

Central Texas Tortoise Rescue became a safe haven for abandoned and surrendered tortoises across Texas in 2015. The center is currently operating out of the home of husband and wife, Ryan and Krista McDermid. 

Once Krista McDermid, executive director of Central Texas Tortoise Rescue, had adopted a pet tortoise, people began asking her if she could take in their pet tortoises.

It was not long before McDermid learned a large majority of tortoises are often abandoned and left to fend for themselves. She said once tortoises become too large for owners to care for, they are often placed in the wild.

“Even if they’re native you can’t just re-introduce them wherever you want because they can carry pathogens into the local populations,” McDermid said.

After realizing large amounts tortoises and box turtles are neglected, she was motivated to open up a tortoise rescue center.

Central Texas Tortoise Rescue currently shelters approximately 30 tortoises. McDermid said the number may change daily. The center typically shelters anywhere from 15 to 70 tortoises at a time.

“Every now and then, we’ll have someone bring in as many as 40 (tortoises) all at once,” McDermid said.

Individuals interested in adopting a tortoise from the rescue center are more than welcome. The owners solely ask of those interested in adopting to thoroughly research everything there is to know about the species captivating them. This way, adopters will be well equipped to care for the animal(s).

McDermid said owners won’t do their tortoises justice by keeping them in homes or aquariums and tanks.

“A lot of people think they’re doing the right thing by keeping these guys inside or claiming the animal needs companionship with their families,” McDermid said.

McDermid said the truth is, tortoises and box turtles are wild and thrive in outdoor environments. The best way to prepare for adopting a tortoise is to mimic its natural environment.

According to TheSprucePets.com, any newly adopted tortoise should be checked for parasites to ensure that it is healthy. Furthermore, it is important that adopters select the appropriate species of tortoise for their specific household.

Anyone interested in adopting a tortoise from Central Texas Tortoise Rescue is asked to familiarize themselves with the adoption requirements and to fill out the adoption application.

Stephen Hailey adopted his pet tortoise, Buddy, two years ago from Central Texas Tortoise Rescue. Hailey said adopting the pet from the rescue center is a more ethical decision than buying or trading with a pet shop.

“There’s plenty of turtles and tortoises out there,” Hailey said. “There’s no reason to feed into the pet shop industry.”

Hailey encourages those interested in adopting a pet tortoise to do their research and understand the animal before bringing it home.

“Make sure you have a good habitat and are going to be able to put the time and effort in,” Hailey said.

In addition to Buddy the tortoise, Hailey has an Alaskan Husky. He said taking care of his dog is easier than the tortoise’s care. Buddy’s habitat needs to be maintained more frequently and protected from predators.

In the next few years, Central Texas Tortoise Rescue plans on improving their enclosures as well as develop a habitat for aquatic turtles.

McDermid said the love she has for tortoises coaxes her to provide a safe and natural environment for the animals.

“Someone has got to speak up for these little guys,” McDermid said. “There are not enough facilities out there to take care of them and they can’t do it themselves.”

Anyone interested in learning more about Central Texas Tortoise Rescue is invited to attend the meet and greet event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 23.

McDermid said at the meet and greet, there will be several areas with different species on display for guests to interact with and see. Additionally, guests interested in adopting can hear and learn about the adoption process.

To learn more about Central Texas Tortoise Rescue, visit their website and Facebook page.

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