The severe drought in the Eastern Cape is crippling many farmers, and the devastating effects on livestock are well known and tragic to see. Sheep and goats are dying on a daily basis on Karoo farms. The plight of many wild animals is also severe, and often overlooked. Small buck are unable to reach water troughs, and become dehydrated, and many magnificent kudus are dying from starvation.
Animal lover Tanya van der Merwe, a farmer’s wife from Aberdeen, has been heartbroken to see the large number of dead tortoises in the veld.
Last weekend, the van der Merwes relocated 18 tortoises from an area that has been most severely affected by the drought to the farm house where they live, in the Camdeboo Conservancy. They loaded them into the back of a bakkie, took them home and released them into their garden.
The tortoises varied in size from a small one that could fit in one hand to some up to about 60cm across that were almost impossible for one person to lift. Despite the heavy weight, Tanya and her husband managed to lift out all the tortoises and put them on the lawn by their farmhouse.
The tortoises were soon munching away at the grass and plants, and a week later can be found all over the garden, mostly under bushes for shade. “My lovely garden is suffering, but it was far more important to save the tortoises,” said Tanya. “I am just so sad about those we had to leave behind, and the dozens that have already died, just on our land.”
The couple’s young sons Liam and Ryan have been fascinated to watch the tortoises, and have learned a valuable lesson on compassion for animals.