It was a rainy and cold Saturday evening when we had a surprise guest in the form of a turtle. We found it on the streets, near the creek, scurrying around and getting almost hit by a car. When I shouted “Turtle!” — everyone around me started to catch it to avoid being hit. It was a fast one – it tried to escape by running away, scuttling to and fro, dashing from one hand to another, before getting trapped by a small flowerpot on the street. While carrying it inside the house, its head extended upward and back in an inverted C, opening its beak and snapping wildly. At first sight we knew immediately that it was a different breed; at least different from Dumbork. Since our point of reference is a red-eared slider, we managed to tick off a few points that made it unique.
It’s SCL or Straight Carapace Length is roughly 5 inches.
It’s a soft-shell, meaning, its carapace and plastron are leathery and rubbery to the touch.
The shell is also pliant.
Its neck can extend up to 2 inches in length.
Its face and carapace have no distinctive markings, just brown black (more brown under the light), with black spots scattered randomly.
Its carapace also has a rough feel to it, especially in the middle going to the tail, but the sides and the top scutes are soft.
It can snap at the hands, using its pliable neck to reach backwards.
The most distinguishing mark is its nose, elongated with small nostrils at the tip, almost like that of a pig.
I was only after we washed the turtle several times to remove dirt, debris, and hair over its body, did we manage to slowly lift the turtle to see its plastron, and we were surprised: it was creamy white, with black dots appearing on the major scutes. Due to the snapping, our first thought was a snapping turtle. We dismissed it immediately because we know that snapping turtles look far more weirder than this one; from stock knowledge and national geographic shows and internet articles, snapping turtle are far more vicious and weirder looking, with its raised and jagged shell, vicious claws, wide beaks, and rough over-all appearance. Next on the list of the breeds of turtle we know is the pig-nosed turtle, due to the fact that its face was pointy, and its nostrils are at the very end, like that of the pig. Another breed may be Spiny soft-shell Turtle, due to the slightly rough carapace (also dismissed). After a hasty internet research, we found out that it is actually not any of the above, but, more accurately, a female Chinese soft-shell turtle.
After the general hubbub on finding a turtle died down, we tried to feed it using a variety of items, such as pellets, vegetables, and live feeder fish, to no avail. It swam around the edges of a plastic tub, a temporary shelter for an otherwise lonely turtle. Upon placing it on its makeshift home, it swam crazily on the edges. However, we noticed that after a while, its eyes would close and would stay still far too long. I’ve had enough “Dumbork Scares”, and I do not want a turtle’s death on my conscience. It seemed tired and hungry, and almost lethargic. Gently I pushed the container less an inch, and when I saw it move again, I was able to breathe more freely.
Once the breed was established, the next few minutes (hours?) centered on its state. Was this weird, new turtle a pet? Where did it come from? What will it eat? Is it purely aquatic, semi-aquatic, or land-based? Where will we put it? These questions were answered via a local Turtle-keeping group in Facebook. They are semi-aquatic, carnivores, and will be far more comfortable in a tank. We reckon the plastic tub will suffice for a night, and we tried to continue researching while we left it near Dumbork’s tank in a room with the lights off.
After approximately 40 minutes, I entered the room to routinely check on our baby Dumbork. My eyes fell on the plastic tub and the pieces of pellet, vegetables, and the swimming fish on it. I immediately thought, “Okay, my sister must have taken Dumbork out to show off to the guests”. That’s when I realized: “What the heck! That’s not Dumbork, that’s the stray turtle!” I shouted for reinforcements and we searched every nook and cranny of the room: under the bed, under Dumbork’s tank, under the shoe rack near the door, under the fridge, I even shouted outside to be careful what to step on and oh there might be a turtle lurking under your seats, and, finally, we found it under the sink, huddled on the corner, filled with more debris and dirt and sawdust than before.
After cleaning it thoroughly and letting it spew out the unmentionable materials from its mouth, we decided to get it a deeper container. We decided to leave it a few fishies and a small piece of lettuce, turned off the light, and let it retire for the night.
Theories on where it came from exchanged among the family members. They were not new to turtle keeping; aside from Dumbork, my cousins also have two turtles: another RES named Vixen, and a Malayan Turtle named Lerone. Since it was raining on and off the past few days, our theories originate mainly from the rise and fall of the water level of the nearby creek. Our first theory: it was an escaped pet and was using the creek to travel via the water, searching for food and the comfort of its home. When the water level decreased, it looked for refuge in higher grounds, and that’s the moment where we saw it on the street. Our second theory, same principle, but instead of being a pet, it is a wild turtle from the start, roaming around on rivers and lakes, getting food from there, and due to the current, it was carried through the creek. After we checked with our nearby neighbors and they chimed that there were no turtle owners within the area, we dismissed the pet theory and accepted the second, more viable one. The next question was: What would happen now? Obviously we can’t take care of it, seeing as we already have one turtle. Also, we lack the necessary equipment for the turtle to grow healthy, strong, and happy. A solution came with a stroke of luck: letting others adopt it. Of course, we have to make sure that the future owner is no poacher who will sell off said turtle to others, nor a sick psycho who will make turtle soup and other nasty things to turtles as seen on the news. While posting “What’s the next best step?” on the said Facebook group, a kind hearted member said he will adopt it, to my relief.
After a series of questions to make sure that the turtle will be safe in his new home, we managed to find out from the adopter that the turtle do not eat for a whole week since getting caught, as it’s still acclimating to the new environment, Also, this member already have a tank prepared for the turtle, so the turtle is good to go.
While the adoption was getting finalized, we tried to give the turtle comfort as much as we can. First off with a name. We can’t continue calling it “it”, “turtle”, or “By” (pronounced Bee, as in Dumby). Also, the other one might be jealous by using her pet name (ha!) to another turtle, so we exchanged a few name choices: Kwik (for Quick because, well, it’s Quick), or Kwiky, and any other variations in between. Then, being a Harry Potter fan that I am, we decided to call it Pigwidgeon, after Ron’s owl given to him by Sirius Black. Pig for short; and also because at first we thought it’s a pig snout turtle. However, since we learned later that Pig was actually a Chinese soft-shell turtle and it seemed too late to change her name – we let the name stick.
Even though our time together with Pig was short (less than a week), it provided a brief look into the future, where instead of being a single turtle keeper; I now have several 100 gallons worth of aquariums and tanks to house these precious babies. This future may be fun, but it still entailed a lot of responsibility for caring for more than one turtle. I’m sure the adopter would provide a better home for Pig. We sure will miss her – she’s a very easy pet. My main concern was she is still not eating, but I’m hoping that with her upcoming move, she will be stable enough to regain health and become active. She seemed content swimming around, even attempting to escape, but I’ve already got my eyes on her. My sister wished to keep it, but we’ve already got my hands full. The adopter is a seasoned turtle-keeper; he keeps all kinds of turtles, so I know she will be in good hands. I know having a turtle is a big responsibility – one alone is difficult, and having two may take some big adjustments on my part. But for now, one Dumbork is enough.
*Pictures: Sorry for the quality, taken from phone.