We first saw a tortoise at Manning Park when Eric McCrum was with us. The tortoise had just finished laying its eggs and was making its way back to the lake. We temporarily interrupted its journey while Eric told and showed us many things we didn't know about tortoises.
Here are Wylie, Kalindi and Robyn with our long necked tortoise.
Geraldineís pre-primary and year one class remembered a lot of what Eric told us about tortoises.
- We saw two tortoises, both female, walking back to the lake after laying their eggs. They lay eggs in a hole they make by digging into the ground near the tree with their back legs. They lay one egg every 15 seconds. You can count this if you watch them raise up and down each time they lay an egg.
- The tortoises like to come out in rainy weather to lay their eggs. This is so they donít dry out and also because the ground is easier to dig when it is wet. It doesnít collapse back down into the hole.
- We could tell they were tortoises and not turtles because they could walk on their feet. Turtles have flippers on the front and have to flop their way back to the water.
- When the eggs hatch, somehow they are programmed to walk towards the water. If you move the eggs around to the other side of the lake, they will walk in the wrong direction, away from the water.
- Baby tortoises are born with their eyes closed, like puppies, and donít open them until about three days later.
- The male tortoises donít walk out on land (because they donít have to). Sometimes they bask in the sun on a log to warm their blood. They are reptiles so they have cold blood and canít make their own body heat like we do.
- The tortoises had webbed feet (for swimming) and claws (for digging). They have eyelids and blink if you touch their eye. This is different from snakes, who do not have eyelids.
- Their shell is made up of fused scales and is a browny green. The top is called the carapace, the side bits are the bridge and none of us could remember the name of the bottom part. The shell is for protection. If the tortoise is scared it can pull its legs back into the shell and curl its tail and neck around so they are tucked into the shell.
- The boy tortoise has a tail that is about 6 cm long, twice as long as the female. This is how you can tell them apart.
- The tortoise was very smelly. This is for protection.
- The tortoise can hold its breath under water for 2 hours. It eats underwater bugs and worms and tadpoles.
From that time on we saw more tortoises, in the lake and out, and they became one of the very special parts of our Manning Park experience. The students did tortoise artwork, including drawings, prints and papier mache.
Artwork inspired by the tortoises
Tortoise family - pencil ~Angel 10 yrs
Tortoise family - print ~Angel 10 yrs
Ben's papier mache long necked tortoise
Tortoise and baby swimming under the sun ~Brendan 10 yrs
~Kalindi 9 yrs
Brendan 10 yrs
Brendan 10 yrs
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