WTF Fun Fact 13601 – Runaway Tortoise Reunion

The tale of a runaway tortoise and his incredible journey back to its family after three and a half years of wandering in Putnam County, Florida, serves as a heartwarming reminder about never losing hope.

The Great Escape: Runaway Tortoise on the Move

Upon its discovery, the runaway tortoise was promptly brought to Florida’s Wildest Animal Rescue, where the team initiated a search on social media to locate the tortoise’s owners. “A truly unbelievable story, it just goes to show you to never give up hope,” remarked the shelter on their Facebook, delighted at the chance to play a role in such a heartwarming reunion.

When Gabby from Florida’s Wildest Animal Rescue spotted the tortoise’s photo shared by its owners in April 2020, she immediately recognized it. Distinctive features, like specific shell markings from an old dog bite, helped Gabby confirm it was the same tortoise. “As soon as I saw her photo I knew I had her tortoise,” Gabby recalled. Although the tortoise was found a mere five miles from where she made her grand escape, the journey wasn’t kind to the adventurous reptile.

Runaway Tortoise’s Health After Its Adventure

After spending years on the road, the tortoise returned in less than perfect shape. Gabby observed, “The condition of the tortoise isn’t great, she has a little shell rot on her shell, and a lot of the spurs on her legs are missing.” Despite these setbacks, the tortoise showed resilience and even ate under Gabby’s care. Yet, the importance of a vet visit was clear. A thorough check-up would be crucial to ensure the tortoise had no underlying infections or health concerns.

Sulcata Tortoises: Curious and Clever Creatures

Sulcata tortoises, widely known as African spurred tortoises, are among the world’s heftiest tortoises, sometimes tipping the scales at over 100 pounds. These curious creatures are a beloved pet choice in the United States. Yet, their sharp intelligence and innate curiosity often lead them into mischief. Gabby explains their reputation: “They burrow under fences, they’re also so strong they even have the potential to knock them down.” She aptly dubbed them “escape artists.”

However, not all runaway tales have jubilant conclusions. While this tortoise’s journey culminated in a heartening reunion, countless other stories remain unfinished. The ordeal underscores the importance of maintaining secure environments for these inquisitive creatures, ensuring they remain safe within their confines.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Runaway Tortoise Found Five Miles From Home—Over Three Years Later” — Newsweek

WTF Fun Fact 13425 – The Dracula Parrot

Who doesn’t love a bird that looks like Dracula? They’re not exactly warm and cuddly, but the Dracula Parrot is a fascinating creature.

What is the Dracula Parrot?

The real name of this bird is Pesquet’s Parrot. Native to the rainforests of New Guinea, the oddly-colored creature is unlike any other parrot.

We typically think of parrots as brightly colored, but the Dracula parrot is black and charcoal grey with a dash of scarlet feathers. It’s those scarlet feathers on the belly and wings that make people think of the bloody book character.

What makes Pesquet’s Parrot unique?

In addition to its somber coloring (which we think is quite fashionable), the bird’s face is unlike other parrots’. The Dracula Parrot’s near featherless face is unusual in the parrot family, but serves a specific purpose. With a diet primarily composed of figs, the lack of feathers helps to keep them clean while feeding.

As a frugivore (not a vampire), the Dracula Parrot feeds on a variety of fig species. This dietary specialization also distinguishes it from its parrot relatives, who are often wood-chewers or nut-crackers.

Its feeding habits have, over time, necessitated an adaptation of strong, sharp claws that help it clasp onto branches while it gorges on its beloved figs.

Behavior and biodiversity of the Dracula Parrot

This beguiling bird is also unlike other parrot species behaviorally. Most of these birds are known for their loud calls and social behavior. However, the Dracula Parrot exhibits a comparatively quieter disposition.

In addition, their flight pattern, described as swift and purposeful, often takes them above the canopy. Other parrots prefer staying within it.

Unlike their more gregarious counterparts, Dracula Parrots tend to be found in pairs or small groups. This propensity for quieter, smaller congregations further amplifies their enigmatic persona.

They’re dark. They’re mysterious. They’re just…so cool!

A vivid reminder

While the Dracula Parrot adds an interesting hue to the rich biodiversity of New Guinea, it is, unfortunately, not immune to the threats that many wildlife species face today. Habitat loss due to deforestation and hunting for its striking feathers (used in local ceremonial attire) are significant challenges to its survival.

Its diet, so unique and specific, also makes it more vulnerable to the effects of habitat destruction.

However, not all is bleak for the bird. Conservation efforts are ongoing to ensure that this distinct bird continues to be a part of our planet’s beautiful biodiversity.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Pesquet’s Parrot (Dracula Parrot): Psittrichas fulgidus” — A-Z Animals

WTF Fun Fact 13256 – Sallie Ann Jarrett

A Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Sallie Ann Jarrett was one of the most famous American Civil War mascots. She belonged to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army.

After the war, a statue was erected in her honor at the Gettysburg Battlefield.

What’s the story of Sallie Ann Jarrett?

During the American Civil War, animals played an important role in military life. They provided companionship, and morale-boosting in addition to serving as mascots.

Sallie belonged to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army. She was adopted by the soldiers as a puppy and became a beloved member of the regiment. Sallie was known for her fierce loyalty to her human companions and her bravery in battle.

Sallie accompanied the regiment on many of its campaigns and was present at some of the most significant battles of the war. This included the Battle of Gettysburg.

At Gettysburg, soldiers reported seeing Sallie standing guard over the bodies of the fallen, refusing to leave their side. Sallie got a leg wound in the battle, but she survived. Afterwards, Sallie continued to serve as their mascot until the end of the war.

Honoring a mascot’s legacy

After the war, the 11th Pennsylvania erected a monument in honor of Sallie at Gettysburg. It’s now a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the role that animals played in the Civil War.

In addition to the statue, there are many stories and legends about Sallie’s exploits during the war. One story claims that she was present at the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse. Storytellers claimed that she barked so loudly that Lee himself heard her. Another story claims that she once saved a Union soldier from drowning by jumping into a river and pulling him to safety.

While some of these stories may be exaggerated or apocryphal, they are a testament to the enduring popularity of Sallie.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Statue of Sallie Ann Jarrett” — Atlas Obscura

WTF Fun Fact 13251 – Playing Possum

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “playing possum,” and perhaps you even know that opossums “play dead” when faced with a dangerous situation. But here’s an interesting animal fact: Did you know that, when threatened, opossums actually go into a comatose state that can last for several hours?

During this time, they appear to be dead, lying motionless with their eyes closed and tongues hanging out of their mouth. They also emit a foul-smelling fluid from their anus, which can deter some predators.

They aren’t just playing around!

(Oh, and Americans often use possum and opossum interchangeably even though “possums” are the Australian version of the marsupial.)

What’s the point of possums playing dead?

One theory is that playing dead (or playing possum) is an instinctual defense mechanism. This may have evolved to protect the tiny creatures from their larger predators who don’t really want a dead meal. Not many animals (that aren’t sick) want to eat dead creatures since decomposition can be hazardous to health.

In this case, the opossum’s best chance of survival would be to make themselves unpalatable to their attacker by appearing dead. The opossums that learned to play dead survived to reproduce and teach their young the trick, while those who tried to run had less chance of survival and reproduction.

Playing dead may also allow opossums to avoid confrontation (don’t try this at home). It may be the case that by lying motionless, they convince their potential attacker they’re not a threat worth pursuing.

Death is not a choice

It’s important to note that the possums that play dead do not actively choose to do so. This is an instinctual behavior that can automatically happen when they’re overwhelmed. In these situations, the opossum’s natural response is to go into a state of shock and “play dead” as a last resort to survive.

During this state, the opossum’s heart rate and breathing slow down, and it becomes unresponsive to external stimuli. The body also produces a foul-smelling liquid that makes it unappetizing to predators. The opossum may also release a small amount of fecal matter, adding to the illusion that it is dead.

The biological advantage

There are also biological advantages to looking dead. When a possum plays dead for any significant length of time, it’s conserving energy in addition to avoiding injury. By going into a comatose state, they may be able to reduce their metabolic rate and lower their body temperature, which can help them conserve energy.

This may be particularly important for opossums that live in harsh environments where resources are limited or predators are abundant. You need every ounce of energy you can get just to stay alive.

Do all possums engage in this behavior?

Interestingly, no. Not all opossums play dead.

While it is a common defense mechanism among opossums, some individuals retain the ability to flee or fight back when threatened.

The decision of which response to use is not a conscious one but is determined by a complex set of factors, such as the type of threat, the possum’s physical condition, and the environmental conditions.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Why Do Opossums Play Dead?” — North American Nature