Lucky Tortoise Gets His Cracked Shell Repaired With $4,000 Procedure


The happy patient. Photo credit: San Diego County

Unlike Humpty Dumpty, the tortoise that fell from a wall and broke to pieces did get put back together.

A 41-kilogram (90-pound) African spurred tortoise is expected to happily continue life in the slow lane after San Diego County veterinarians completed a three-hour operation to repair its otherwise fatally cracked shell.


According to a county news report, a resident of Fallbrook, a town south of Los Angeles and north of San Diego, witnessed a neighbor’s dog chasing the tortoise until it fell from a 3-meter (10-foot) wall. After going to investigate, the concerned animal lover found the tortoise on its back with its shell broken in three places.

With the tortoise’s owners seemingly out of sight, the injured creature was brought to animal services, who, in turn, called a reptile specialist veterinarian. The vet determined that the tortoise, aged between 35 and 40 years and capable of living up to 70, was a candidate for surgery – but the procedure was going to cost $4,000.

“We have a donor-driven ‘Spirit Fund’ that we can use for severe medical cases such as this one,” said County Animal Services director Dan DeSousa on April 16. “This tortoise will get the extensive, aggressive care and long-term observation that he needs to regain his health and hopefully live to a great, old age.”

The operation – a fusion of zoological medicine and MacGyver-ing that involved screws drilled into the shell pieces and stabilized with zip ties, plus denture paste and epoxy to seal the cracks – took place the next day.

The surgery begins. San Diego County
San Diego County

Now in recovery, the tortoise is at risk of infection but so far in good health. If its owner can’t be found, the tortoise will be moved to a rescue organization center equipped to care for large tortoises.

The final product. San Diego County
San Diego County

In other heartwarming yet odd veterinary news, last month a wild carpet python in Queensland, Australia, required surgery after slithering its way into a home and consuming a man’s slipper in the middle of the night.

While hunting for his missing slipper three days later, the man found the snake – bearing a suspiciously shaped lump – hiding in his home. A local snake catcher transported the large reptile to a herp-specialist veterinarian, who removed the slipper for free.



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