Saturday, July 5, 2008


It was a beautiful sunny day in Central Illinois, so we took the kids to the zoo this afternoon. We had covered about two-thirds of the zoo when we came to the herpaquarium where most of the reptiles and amphibians are housed. The kids always stop right outside this building and touch the shells of the tortoises that stay in a low fenced area to the left of the herpaquarium door. As we came up the hill to the building today, I noticed that one tortoise had its mouth wide open and appeared to be attempting to climb up a large rock. Not wanting the kids to get bit, I told them, "don't touch the tortoise with its mouth open."

However, as we got a little closer, I realized that the large rock he was climbing was actually another tortoise. The kids both stopped and stared at the male tortoise as he made steady grunting, bark-like noises. Maggie commented, "I'm not touching that one! He's mad about something." Chris and I just gave each other "the look" and ushered the kids inside the herpaquarium. After looking at the snakes and frogs and iguanas and turtles, I said to Chris, "how fast do you think we can get them out the door?"

Apparently, not fast enough. The male turtle was still rhythmically barking away as we exited the building and Maggie again stopped to comment. "He is sure upset about something! He's really angry, isn't he, Mommy? Maybe it's because that other tortoise won't get out of his way."

"Hmm...could be," I responded - while trying not to laugh at the look Chris was giving me. As we went on to the next exhibit, Maggie again asked, "Mommy - why was the tortoise doing that?" I began to figure she understood that there was a deeper explanation that what I had been offering, so I finally told the truth. I explained that they were trying to make tortoise babies. I explained that is what they had to do for the tortoise to get pregnant and lay eggs with baby tortoises in them.

She digested this truth for a moment and then said, "to make babies, he has to climb on her back and make weird noises?" Not wanting to continue the discussion any further, I just replied, "Yep - that's about right." She then said, "Are you just kidding me?" I laughed and assured her I was telling her the truth....but I am not sure she believed me.



uncle doug said...

I've seen that non-believing look on Maggie's face before. If you remember, she once presented me with an acorn that she had found, and I told her that if she took it home and kept it warm long enough, a monkey would pop out. Probably made as much sense to her as the whole tortoise thing. Yes, these are the moments that make me appreciate --- fortunately, from afar, the challenges of parenthood.

papadale said...

I think I would have stuck with the angry rock climber story, thanks for the heads up on the zoo pron exhibits.