As the founder of Big and Small Tortoise Rescue and Sanctuary, I can tell you that I never expected this rescue to become successful, nor did I expect to enjoy it so much! Despite being challenging and demanding, tortoise keeping (and rescuing) is so rewarding and enjoyable! I would have never thought my life would revolve around tortoises, but now-a-days, I can’t imagine my life without tortoises! So how did this come to be?
Many years ago, I was searching petfinder and found a redfoot named Olive in Minnesota in need of a home. I had always heard from my sister, who is a veterinarian and has worked with tortoises, that they were such unique and fascinating animals. I decided to give it a go and drove to Minnesota to adopt our first tortoise. After adopting him, I realized this 6 year old tortoise was far from healthy with a pyramided, flaky, and pliable shell. The previous owners had mentioned they fed it nothing but spinach and chicken. He was kept in a far too small, tall-sided tubberware container (which provided poor ventilation for heat exchange). Minimal humidity, excessive heat (with no where to escape the heat), in addition to a poor diet led him to develop these issues. Needless to say, I was forced to learn as quickly as possible to turn his care around. I became so invested in researching and learning about tortoise keeping and started realizing how much contradictory information is out there. It takes a lot of critical researching to uncover the keys to successful tortoise keeping, a highly motivated individual to provide such care, and a sharp eye to observe changes in behavior / improvements so each tortoise gets individualized treatment for recovery. Long story short, I learned so much and felt motivated to help more tortoises in need.
Olive in his previous home:
Olive today at the sanctuary:
Later, I had been browsing craigslist and found a sickly sulcata in Eastern Iowa that needed even more help! This tortoise had severe metabolic bone disease – so bad that his carapace was caved inward like a bowl, and there were deep grooves between each scute. He was approximately 6 years old and only weighed 5.6 lbs, as he lived his whole life in a small glass tank with no UV or heat. I really was unsure if I was ready to handle such a severe case, so I reached out to Northwest Tortoise (a tortoise rescue in Washington) for advice. Terese Myer, the founder of Northwest Tortoise, helped to guide me through caring for him and getting him back to full strength. Developing a relationship with an individual that cared so much for tortoises was very motivational and inspiring and I got the idea to start my own tortoise rescue. Although she warned me that there are emotional ups and downs to being in this “business” I pushed forward and started Big and Small Tortoise Rescue and Sanctuary!
Dozer at his previous home and on his way to the sanctuary:
Dozer now at the sanctuary:
Now our rescue is starting to grow faster than I ever expected, and I’m thrilled. I am always humbled by the overwhelming support from other tortoise keepers or tortoise fans (Thank you!!!) I am so glad I decided to start this endeavor. It’s so rewarding…. and it’s not just rescuing and rehabbing that are enjoyable (although this is the part that is most enjoyable), but working with like-minded individuals has also become very rewarding. Here’s to a bright future and impactful effort for our rescue! 🙂