THE LIFE OF A TEENAGE TURTLE
Kaiju, as I had named her -- her, because there was not much bulge on the cloacal vent -- grew steadily and on the subsequent years was large enough to be fed larger food items. Rhinoceros beetle larvae (Oryctes rhinoceros), African land snails (Achatina fulica), and chicken heads were staple food items, as well as the occasional water lettuce or quiapo (Pistia stratiotes).
The bite force was strong enough to easily break snail shells and one afternoon, a group of Mormon missionaries passed by the house and asked to see the alligator snapper, obviously from a tip given by the neighbors. So, I fished Kaiju out and as I was maneuvering the turtle so the guests could get good photos, the indignant turtle snapped sideways and caught the base of my left thumb, which bled profusely. That was the first and last accident I ever got from the turtle.
When I moved to my present location I had her placed in a pond stocked with tilapia to keep mosquito larvae and algae at bay, although as would be expected, Kaiju sees the pest control as her dinner source. Nevertheless, two tilapias born on the pond by one of the previous residents have managed to steer clear out of those murderous jaws.
Now on her 18th year, Kaiju has a 14-inch carapace and a length of roughly 25 inches from snout to tail in a resting position. The last time I lifted her out of the water was about two years ago, and I reckon she would be around 10 kilos as of this writing.
She has become an attraction to visitors, particularly to the first-timers who get kicks seeing her being fed with chicken heads -- and an even greater thrill when they get asked to feed the leviathan themselves, using either a pair of 12-inch tongs or forceps. She eats water lettuce and Hydrilla, too, but where’s the fun in feeding a massive beast such plant matter from a pair of tongs?