Here is some good, but probably not very scientifically supported, news.
We are a household with animals. Granted, a difficult task in Beirut but we try our best. Both hubbie and I come from families that always had animal(s) in the house, and so we pass this on. Dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, hamsters, fish, birds, stick insects, you name it, we've had (or have) them.
|As a comparison; this is how big they are going to get|
And for a strange reason, we seem to come into a lot of land turtles (tortoises). My daughter once got one for a birthday, and when that news got around, everyone with a turtle seemed to somehow feel free to dump theirs off at our house. It was either as a gift, or they were travelling for the summer, or moving out of the country, but whatever the reason, we got more and more turtles.
So many in fact, that it was no longer feasible to keep them in Beirut. We created a type of enclosure at our mountain house, where they (by now some 9 turtles) could roam freely. This news attracted even more turtles, and somehow we ended up with 18!
It must be a Dutch thing, because a Dutch friend of mine, way down south in Nabatiyah, has some 40+ turtles in her garden. She has a large olive orchard, and every year, when they plow in between the trees, she walks in front of the tractor, and picks up all the tortoises that’s she sees, otherwise they will plow right over them, and places them in the back yard where they are safe. One summer, she got a white permanent marker, and started numbering them. She was at 40-something, when the first rain of the fall brought an end to that project; the permanent marker turned out not to be that permanent.
These land turtles, called Mediterranean Spur Thighed Tortoise, or Greek Tortoises ( Testudo graeca) and indigenous to the region and – according to the IUCN, the International Union for Nature and Conservation –their population borders on the vulnerable (which is one step before endangered). Not surprising, as a massive building spur the past 30 years had decimated their habitat drastically.
But my 18 turtles have been very busy this year. They have been mating like crazy. Females can lay between 3 to 5 eggs, and although I have no idea how many females there are, I have seen at least two turtles laying eggs.
And they are hatching. Last week, 7 puny little turtles suddenly were roaming around the garden, and I know of at least one stash that should be hatching this month as well. Pretty soon I will be having so many turtles that I can start repopulating the neighborhood with turtles again, and get them out of the vulnerable zone.