Ican’t re­mem­ber the ex­act date, but that should be some­time mid­jan­uary, 2000. About two months pre­vi­ously, I ac­quired a blue-phase iguana and while it made an in­ter­est­ing pet with its hearty ap­petite and al­most pow­dery blue color, I wanted a more re­spon­sive an­i­mal. Or should I say, I wanted a more ag­gres­sive an­i­mal.

At that time, I was keep­ing ven­omous snakes, which in­cluded a King co­bra (Ophio­ph­a­gus han­nah), a Philippine co­bra (Naja philip­pinen­sis), Malayan moc­casins (Cal­lose­lasma rho­dos­toma), death adders (Acan­thophis antarcti­cus), and ar­bo­real vipers from the gen­era Trimeresu­rus and Tropi­dolae­mus. I had honed my her­peto­cul­tural skills enough that I could work with of­ten bel­liger­ent an­i­mals with lit­tle worry of get­ting bit­ten, so I wanted a lit­tle more ex­cite­ment, so to speak. The op­por­tu­nity came Jan­uary of that year when a friend asked me if he could trade his tiny al­li­ga­tor snap­per for my iguana. He knew I was on the look­out for a more spir­ited rep­tile. Days later, he came over with a tur­tle with about a two-inch shell -- the lit­tle beast was smaller than the di­am­e­ter of my palm. I had a five-gal­lon tank I pre­pared in ad­vance for the lit­tle chap’s ar­rival, with some feeder fishes in­side, then al­lowed the tur­tle to set­tle in for a few days.

On the sec­ond day, I ob­served the tur­tle start­ing to stalk the fishes but would not seem to catch one, so I fed it with thawed fresh­wa­ter shrimps, which it ate, al­beit with some hes­i­ta­tion. A few days later, I no­ticed rocks cov­ered with slime and it wasn’t un­til a few more days af­ter that that I was fi­nally able to de­ter­mine what was go­ing on: I saw the rep­tile swal­low rocks to be used as gas­troliths to aid di­ges­tion, in much the same way as crocodil­ians did.


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