Jake Kutina

After a few winter months of low activity and burrowing in the mud, the turtles of Sant’Anselmo are ready for action. Spring has sprung, It’s getting warmer, and rainy days are fewer and farther between. The turtles are taking full advantage by spending most of their day outside of the water soaking up the sun.  We have five grown turtles, a couple of ponds, many visitors who like to turtle watch, and one monk who takes care of them.  Spring is especially exciting because around this time of year, the turtles will venture out of the pond to lay their eggs.

Libera le tartarughe. Free the turtles.

Victor is a monk from Nigeria. He’s the gardener here at Sant’Anselmo and he takes care of the grounds. He’s the one who runs this turtle operation. I call him “il capo delle tartarughe”, the boss of the turtles. It sounds a lot better in Italian. He’s been taking care of a few baby turtles that hatched last May. And by a few I mean 11. He has a tank or two in his office where the little ones live.

The time has finally come when Victor has deemed them big enough to make the move to the big leagues. The two main worries are 1. how are they going to react to the slightly colder water than their tank, and 2. how well will they coexist in the same home as the big turtles and some fish. Earlier this week, Victor did a test run by placing three of the baby turtles in the pond with the grown turtles and other fish. A few people gathered around to watch. It was a sight to see.

One by one he placed them on a rock that protrudes from the water. The first two were excited. They quickly scanned their surroundings and about 10 seconds later they plopped into the water. The third one was a little shyer. After it was placed on the rock, it shriveled up into its shell. It needed a little more time to get acclimated to its new home. A few minutes later it was home free. The youngins ventured out, exploring their new swimming space and finding new places to hide. But wait a minute, one of the big turtles seemed to have a problem with one of the babies. He aggressively approaches and sizes it up. I thought “would it… try to…eat the other?”. False alarm. It ended up being a welcome. A quick test if you will. Whatever it was, the young turtle passed, and it was back to good living in turtleland.