Saturday, September 25, 2010

Our pet

Our pet is a turtle. The kids named it Francis. We welcomed Francis into our home when it was a 4 month old baby turtle. Now it is 7 years old and its size has tripled since.

Its home is a water tank with a stump in it. Its daily routine include: swims round in the tank, has food, then rest on the stump for extended period of time, watching the surroundings. Francis gets off the stump for the night - sleeps in the water. It has been there quietly for all these years, attracting young visitors attentions occasionally.

Recently I become curious about two of its behaviors: its climb onto the stump ; its cleaning of half of the tank.

The climb

With its inflexible shell, short legs, it must be really hard work for Francis to climb the stump. I saw Francis' final push onto the stump by chance once. Its front legs grabbed the edge of the stump, neck stretched as long as possible, with a fast push from its hind legs, Francis pivoted around the edge of the stump and landed on the top with a light thump.

I tried to capture the process on camera in the last couple of weekends. I waited stationary on a sofa some distance from the tank for its climb; I sat at the top of stairs which faces the tank at an angle, a good 30 feet away; I hide behind a matter where I was, once I raised the camera, it stopped climbing and went down into water. I would find Francis on top of the stump when I was back at the tank after a 20 ~ 30 minute absence. "Francis is shy!", Lily jokingly told me.

Apparently Francis knows that in the final push of the climb - all its four legs and neck stretched out, it is in its weakest defensive position. Francis will stop attempting the final push and retrieve into the water when it senses any movement.

Not wanting to spend more time to capture the climb, I placed turtle feed on top of the stump and stayed some distance away from the tank, and finally caught Francis' climb on camera.

Partial House Cleaning

Last Saturday, I was surprised to see that half of the tank was clean. Obviously Francis cleaned the tank itself, pushed its feces to the other side. Francis was pushing on the tank wall and looking up to me. When I opened the tank cover to put some turtle feeds in, Francis turned around and hided it head and legs in its shell. When the cover was closed, Francis started eating.

I told Lily later about my observation, she said that Francis has been doing this all the time - nothing extraordinary.

About 1 hour later, I noticed that the other side of the tank was clean now, turtle waste was pushed to the previously clean side!

Why does Francis clean half of the tank? For its self comfort? Maybe not, I see Francis in soiled water all the time. Lily usually feeds Francis after she cleans the tank. Is it possible that Francis acquired this trained reflex? When we forgot to feed Francis, Francis knows that if the tank is clean, it will get fed?

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