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Sam the Galapagos Tortoise

This weekend I took a formal tour of my new favorite place, the San Diego Botanic Gardens. My friend and I met with Julian Duval, the president and CEO, and we were zipped about on an electric cart to see the Bamboo Garden, the New Zealand Garden, the Succulent Garden, the Subtropical Fruit Garden (so many different kinds of bananas!), the Herb Garden, the Children's Garden, the Walled Garden, the Tropical Rain Forest, and so much more. Julian is nothing if not knowledgeable and enthusiastic about plants, ecosystems, and conservation. (Note my bulging right cargo pants pocket full of scavenged kumquats from the Subtropical Fruit Garden--love those--reminds me of my parents.)

 The gardens are my new happy place, but I have to say that my favorite was Sam and his story. Sam is a 48-year-old Galapagos tortoise. Julian bought him in 1966 (This was well before the Endangered Species Act, no judgement.), and kept him as a pet in Chicago (Chicago!!) for 3 years before he grew large enough to find another home out here in Torrance, California, and later in Fallbrook, with a lovely woman who kept him along with another tortoise for many years until she sadly developed a health problem. The other tortoise went to a zoo, but serendipitously Sam's owner found Julian again, and now Sam lives at the Botanic Gardens here in Encinitas.

And what a charmer he is! His skin is actually quite warm to the touch while he is in the sun, and he adores being petted. He likes people and bright colors--he kept making a bee line for my leaf green iPhone case and was sure it was a treat. I fed him prickly pear pads instead.... Sam weighs about 600 pounds and will likely live about 200 years. Way to remind me that I am small and my life is short---make it count!!

16 comments (Add your own)

1. Lois Dickson wrote:
I am so glad you liked "Sam"!!! He is a real charmer and I miss him dearly!!! I took care of him for over 40 years. Julian is a wonderful man interested in all living things, be it plant or animal. It does my heart good to know that he is in the capable hands of Julian and Leslie. I actually went yesterday April 14)to visit the other Galapagos tortoise I had named "Jaws". If you are ever at the San Diego Zoo, look for the Galapagos tortoise with the "J12" painted on his shell. He never got "socialized" like Sam did even though they were both treated equally. You are right in that ....we are small and our life is short". Lois Dickson

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