Eden Animal Sanctuary Offers a Soft Place to Land for Tortoises and Turtles

By  | 
Tony Maples Photography


All photos courtesy of Jenny Webster Jurica

Located near Spring Branch, Texas is an animal sanctuary that rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes a curious bunch of creatures indeed. When you walk into Eden Animal Sanctuary, you’re likely to be greeted by a positively prehistoric-looking tortoise named Radar, the friendly resident sulcata, or African “Spur Thigh,” tortoise. Radar, like most of the other chelonians (which is the order that both turtles and tortoises belong to) who’ve found themselves at Eden Animal Sanctuary, used to be someone’s pet. Radar was found after being dumped on a piece of property, likely by unknowing owners who tried to “return him to nature” when they realized how large he was getting.

Turtles and Tortoises Are a Big Commitment.

Radar the Sulcata

Most of the turtles and tortoises (Just so we’re clear: Turtles live in the water some or all of the time while tortoises are land dwellers) that live at Eden Animal Sanctuary were once purchased at the pet store or at a roadside stand and were kept in captivity. It’s also highly likely that they didn’t have a proper habitat in their former homes. In fact, many of the tortoises and turtles who come to Eden Animal Sanctuary are getting to live outside for the first time in their lives.

We’ve probably all seen turtles and tortoises at the pet store and briefly entertained thoughts of scooping one up, taking it home, and being best friends for life. What lots of people fail to realize is that some species of tortoises can get big – we’re talking 200 lbs. big! They also live as long as (if not longer than) most humans, with the average lifespan being 50 to 150 years (so, you better add your pet sulcata to your last will and testament). And, all turtles and tortoises require special habitats. That aquarium in the corner of the science lab that houses a red-eared slider? Sadly, that is just not the best place for him.

Adopt Don’t Shop

Eden Animal Sanctuary

This is precisely how Eden Animal Sanctuary’s founder Rachel Street started on her “chelonian journey.” In high school, back on the East Coast, she worried about the resident box turtle in her science class, so she took it upon herself to find him earthworms every day. She knew that the limp piece of iceberg lettuce in the corner of his small aquarium wasn’t what he needed. She eventually brought the box turtle home and thus began a life of rescuing and fostering all types of animals.

After moving to the Texas Hill Country and researching where she could adopt a tortoise of her own, Street was disappointed to find little in the way of tortoise and turtle adoption organizations. She refused to purchase one from the pet store, opting instead to find a way to care for and foster displaced and abandoned turtles and tortoises on her own. So, in January of 2015, Eden Animal Sanctuary was born.

To say that it’s been a successful endeavor is an understatement. This year alone, Eden Animal Sanctuary has already taken in 23 baby box turtles and five Sulcata tortoises. Many more baby water turtles are finding their way there, too, as an animal rescuer is delivering 53 red-eared sliders to Eden Sanctuary in the coming weeks.

Most of the tortoises and turtles at Eden Sanctuary are available for adoption. Street carefully screens all potential adopters, making sure that they have an adequate space for an appropriate habitat for the turtles and tortoises that she fosters and that potential adopters know what they’re getting into. Street has also dedicated her life to educating the public on these often misunderstood and sometimes underappreciated creatures.

Making a Difference for Tortoises and the Humans That Love Them

Bentley the sulcata

Eden Animal Sanctuary is making a difference in the lives of turtles and tortoises all over the country, as well as for the humans who love them. Recently, a couple drove 24 hours straight to hand-deliver their beloved sulcata tortoise, Bentley, to Eden Animal Sanctuary. Bentley previously had free reign of their home in Maryland, but as the giant sulcata (a native of Africa) continued to grow in size, they realized that they couldn’t give him the life he deserved on the cold and cloudy East Coast. Bentley now enjoys eating spineless cactus and basking in the 100-degree weather at Eden Sanctuary, a much more appropriate habitat for this gentle giant.

“Munch and Mingle” on July 29

Eden Animal Sanctuary

If you’re interested in seeing first-hand the good work that Eden Animal Sanctuary is doing, plan to attend their “Munch and Mingle” on Saturday, July 29 at the Sanctuary in Spring Branch. There, you can see what Eden Sanctuary does with their generous donations and meet adoptable turtles and tortoises. Go to Eden Sanctuary’s Facebook page for more information on this event.