Oogway the pond turtle and I have been together for two years now.
Our journey together started like this on 24 May 2018...
...the day when I stumbled upon a lost and helpless wafer-thin turtle, parched and exhausted, baking under mid-day sun, just a wee 2.8cm (1.1 inches) long. What began as a panicked rescue mission turned into a reluctant adoption once I realised that Oogway’s species—Mauremys reevesii—is invasive, i.e., not native to Japan, most likely introduced through the pet trade.
It’s been an adventure ever since.
This is Oogway today, slightly over 10cm (4 inches) at the shell—healthy, energetic, muscular and happy:
For comparison, this is a composite photo, to scale.
Yup. He’s grown quite a bit.
If you’re stuck indoors waiting out the pandemic situation, below are some links to previous posts about Oogway, a series of stories that I hope will make you smile.
Previous Posts about Oogway (in reverse chronological order—read from bottom to top)
- Oogway Update
- Oogway's One Year Anniversary
- Mornings With Oogway
- The Dream of the Brown Turtle
- A Christmas Tail 2
- Turtles Are Fast
- Oogway’s Progress
- Oogway’s Outing
- Adopting Oogway
Like most other people (and house turtles too?), we have been spending a lot of time at home. He is, in fact, in his terrarium in front of me, perched atop his favourite rock, sunning himself as I write this.
The two of us have been making the most of our downtime—Oogway finding new ways of using me as a jungle gym/ body heater/ taxi/ lookout tower; me taking photos when Oogway says it’s OK.
This is Oogway back in mid-April:
That’s a plumbing joint that we’ve re-purposed as a portable recreation zone. Oogway was wary of the architecture at first, perhaps perplexed by the abundance of apertures. He’s since taken to it though, seeming to prefer one side or another on any given day. There’s no accounting for turtle moods.
The idea for the triple-egress turtle tunnel came to me after Oogway did this in the winter:
It was brrrrr outside, so Oogway was only able to exercise indoors.
I dug the center out of an old foam roller to create a tunnel, just to see how he would react. Oogway inspected it, rolled it back and forth, then climbed in.
Turtle in a tube!
Pause for a flashback to December 2018, when I invested in a climate-controlled terrarium for Oogway. Here he is in his then-new home (he's since upgraded to a larger residential unit), ensconced in his favourite place under the faux rock. Note that the rock was much bigger than Oogway at the time.
He has filled-out and grown so much since then that he can barely fit under the rock. I tried taking it away. Let’s just say that turtles can throw impressive tantrums. So it remains in his terrarium, despite the mismatch of proportions.
What he does these days—engage your imagination for this—is shake, shimmy and squeeze until somehow, he manages to get under the rock. No. It’s more accurate to say that he wears the rock, looking very much like a rather discombabulated hermit crab in need of a shell upgrade.
The first time I saw him do this I laughed. Hard.
Just picture it—turtle donning a faux rock, walking around as if this were completely normal.
I may have laughed just a bit too loud though. Oogway pulled back under said rock, which collapsed shut on top of him, much as an offended hermit crab would slam the door.
I felt bad, so there’s no laughing now. Just smirks. Sometimes giggles.
Fast-forward to early May this year, when Oogway learned how to flex his muscles. I managed to grab this iPhone snap:
Having discovered his new superpowers, Oogway decided to redecorate. He flipped the rock completely over...
…and turned it into a sofa bed:
Oogway’s relationship with his beloved rock has continued to evolve.
Now that he’s almost too big to wear the rock with any decent sense of fashion, Oogway has been spending more time climbing onto it. He can still manage to balance on top, but it’s just a matter of time before that devolves into a gut-busting funny situation. (Gotta’ remember not to laugh too loud.)
I’ll have to find a bigger rock at some point, though I’m not sure if Oogway will be willing to part with his favourite item of interior decor.
I mentioned in previous posts that I thought Oogway might be able to differentiate people, knowing who will play and who will not. At this point, I am pretty certain that he can.
He will almost never take food from me now. The association of Tony = stupid human tricks is so strong that upon seeing or hearing me, he drops whatever he’s doing and asks to be picked up. This does not happen with anyone else.
As a matter of practicality, I have to leave him well before any attempt to feed him is made, and stay away while he’s being fed. I have to be silent as well. If he hears my voice, he stops and looks around.
One last thing before I wrap up. It is not possible to be certain of the gender of a Mauremys reevesii turtle until about three years of age. We learned this early on. I have referred to Oogway as a male, primarily because he had such a long tail relative to body size when I found him (see baby photo above).
With marine turtles, males tend to have longer tails than females. That was the only frame of reference I had, so I went with male…for the time being, until we know for sure.
Though it is still too early to be certain, I am increasingly thinking that Master Oogway might actually be Ms. Oogway. We’ve consulted anatomy charts, and the relevant part is kind of looking that way. Plus, Oogway is super-smart.
I’ll conclude with two photos, first an iPhone snap of Oogway scrunched into the space between my arm and the beanbag I was on (he loves scrunching underneath me—he appreciates my ability to thermoregulate):
And finally, here is Oogway asleep after a long day of babysitting me, note the nictitating membrane:
Happy second birthday Oogway.