Helen Scales

sulcata tortoise helen scales

Tortoises on the radio

Tortoises are not well known for being noisy. They are in fact pretty much silent creatures and perhaps not great on radio. But I still managed to catch them making sounds on tape for my latest BBC broadcast, on Radio 4’s Saving Species this week.

Listen here to a clip from the programme.

During my trip to West Africa earlier this year, I visited Tomas Diagne at the Village des Tortues a few hours outside Dakar – it’s a tortoise rehabilitation and conservation centre he set up. We strolled through the scrubby dry forest of the reserve and met many of the huge sulcata tortoises he’s raising with the aim of releasing them back into the wild – when he first started working with this species, there were fewer than 100 left in the wild in Senegal.

The sounds I recorded were of the tortoises digging burrows to hide from the scorching midday heat. Because as Tomas said, in their native habit across Africa it gets “crazy crazy hot”.

Chelonians have inspired all sorts of stories around the world (have you read the hare and the tortoise?) and in Africa they  are surrounded by a rich mythology. As well as hearing all about Tomas’ work reintroducing sulcata tortoises into the wild I also paid a visit to his house and saw some of his incredible collection of tortoise and turtle artworks and artifacts that he’s spent years collecting from all across Africa.  One of my favourite items from his’ collection is a wooden box, carved into the shape of a tortoise and a turtle, that is used to predict the future.

Here’s Tomas telling me how it works:

Find out more about Tomas’ work in my report on Saving Species here (we’re on at the 20 min mark).

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