Saturday, March 25, 2006

hail, hail Chelonia

The world's oldest tortoise died Wednesday. His age was estimated to be 250 or even 255 years old. Most of the articles about Adwaita include a photo of him from better days. However the BBC and The Times of London made sure to use a photo of his carcass. The BBC even has link to video coverage of the dead tortoise. Video? It just lays there. There's an interesting article and a podcast on the Slate Magazine site that explain why some species live so long.

I've always been fond of turtles and tortoises, especially box turtles and desert tortoises. Here's a photo of Mo, our pet tortoise, as we took a break from our cross-country drive in Hannibal, Missouri.

When our beloved pet passed away, I had him preserved forever. I wrote a little about it last year in an essay on my passion for radio. Here's the relevant excerpt:
When Mo died, I wasn't even going to say anything on the air. He was supposed to live longer than me and I felt somehow at fault for his respiratory infection. Thankfully my partner, Ashley Adams, saw the humor in the situation when I told her that I hadn't buried Mo but instead put him in the freezer next to the Turtle Tracks ice cream.

The saga of Mo played out over the next six months on our show. We called local taxidermists trying to find one who would preserve him. One refused to do reptiles. Another said that small animals were too difficult. A third refused to do pets. A listener called and reminded us that several months earlier we had interviewed a taxidermist who specialized in pets. We made a call to that taxidermist, Al Holmes of the Al Holmes Taxidermy Studio and Wildlife Museum in Wetumpka, Alabama. Al explained that he freeze-dries the smaller critters and would be happy to "fix Mo up" for me.

By a strange coincidence, my co-host had relatives in Wetumpka and was planning to bring her 2-month old son to visit them on Mother's Day weekend. Rather than pay shipping charges, I wanted to somehow convince her to take Mo's carcass along on the six hour drive. I waited until we were live on the air to spring the idea on her and asked listeners to help me convince her. After she reluctantly agreed, we asked Al Holmes how to pack Mo for the trip. He was already in a Ziploc bag in my freezer. I wrapped him (and the bag) in newspaper and put him in a Styrofoam cooler surrounded by some frozen bottles of Aquafina. I taped the cooler shut and brought it to work with me. It sat on the studio floor during our whole show that Friday. The next day Ashley delivered the cooler to Al Holmes. When he opened it, they drank the Aquafinas which had thawed but were still cool and refreshing. Creepy.

Speaking of tortoises, have you seen the funny TV commercials featuring The Slowskys, a family of tortoises who prefer DSL to cable? And speaking of turtles, a listener named Johanna sent along the following email:
I heard that you really like turtles. I do as well. Just thought I'd let you know about an amazing opportunity I had to work with them for a week one summer a few years ago. I was able to work as a volunteer with researchers with loggerhead turtles on Wassaw Island (a tiny island on the Georgia coast near Savannah). We patrolled the beaches waiting for turtles to make a run to lay eggs and we moved or protected nests if needed. It was really a neat experience and great to know that I helped in the conservation of this endangered species. I've included the link below if you want to check it out sometime.
Oh yeah, you know what other turtles I really like? These ones.
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Anonymous Pam Mc said...

Somehow I knew that last part was coming....LOL


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