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Big African spurred tortoise found walking on Cowichan Lake Road

This female African spurred tortoise was saved last week while walking along Cowichan Lake Road. Her owners are sought by Salt Spring Island wildlife-centre officials. - Courtesy: Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre
This female African spurred tortoise was saved last week while walking along Cowichan Lake Road. Her owners are sought by Salt Spring Island wildlife-centre officials.
— image credit: Courtesy: Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre

Is your turtle missing?

Actually, the big female creature found ambling along Cowichan Lake Road last week is an African spurred tortoise that's now safely bunking at Salt Spring Island's Wildlife Natural Care Centre.

The healthy tortoise — believed to be about 60 years old — was plucked from traffic by passersby, centre director Jackie Ballerone told the News Leader Pictorial.

"We've had her for a week and need to find her mom and dad," she of the owners, who may be locals.

"She wasn't hit and isn't dehydrated, which tells us she's a recent escapee.

"She was talking a stroll down the highway and is probably from the Cowichan area, unless she got taken there previously."

The friendly tortoise was examined by Nanaimo vet and exotic specialist, Dr. Ian Lawrie.

Still, Ballerone and her concerned staff have a problem about returning one of the gentle tortoises on the international threatened-species list.

"If we find it's not legal to have this animal in B.C., we'll connect with the SPCA and ask what they want us to do," she said of the seven-kilogram vegetarian native to the Sahara region.

"She has to be maintained in a very specific environment and can't go to the wrong place — but someone has been taking proper care of her."

"What troubles me is if someone got her under dubious circumstance, will that stand in the way of claiming her?"

First, the claimant must identify a human-made mark on the tortoise.

"They must identify the mark on the phone before we'll even let them have a look at her.

"If we don't find her proper owner, with I's dotted and T's crossed, we'll have to place her.

"She can't be released back to the wild; she's been human-imprinted and wouldn't make it," Ballerone explained of the social animal unafraid of people.

If all issues can't be resolved, the hobo tortoise could be offered to the Abbotsford Game Farm or another care facility, she said.

Spurred tortoise numbers are dropping in southern Africa due to poaching and habitat loss, while and international trade rules ban the export of wild spurred tortoises.

The tortoise species is the world's third largest.

For more, call the centre at 250-537-0777.

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