Saturday, November 12, 2011

Where's the lid on this thing? Tortoise won't come out of his shell to play with lions... which is why he escaped


Lions in need of a tin opener after being outwitted by a leopard tortoise

When an unfortunate tortoise wandered into a pride of lions there appeared to be only one possible outcome.

So the tortoise did what all tortoises do in such sticky situations…it went into its shell and awaited the inevitable.

But luckily the young lioness cubs were clearly puzzled by the strange shelled creature in their midst and didn’t know what to do next.

Trying to work out if it was a snack or an unusual toy, they licked it, pawed it, squashed it and attempted to eat it.

Nothing seemed to work and every time that hard shell got in the way.

And so having famously outwitted the speedy hare, the tortoise proved too smart for the king of the beasts.

Eventually the female lion cubs got bored of their plaything and moved on in search of a tastier meal.

Tourist Mike Cullis, 62, who took the amazing pictures, said the tortoise appeared to suffer no serious injury and survived its ordeal.

Mr Cullis, a former operations manager in the oil and gas industry from Tenby, Dyfed, snapped the scene whilst on safari in the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya last week.

Puzzle: A cub licks the tortoise in the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya

He said: 'They seemed to get bored with it after an hour or so and once the lions had gone I think the tortoise just wandered off. I should think it had a bit of a headache though.

'I am convinced they were playing with it like a toy. Let's face it, a tortoise is not much of a meal for a lion. They have much bigger meals than a tortoise would provide.

'The young female lions were about 18 months old and very playful. At one point as a lion played with it, another one came over and put its paw on the tortoise as if to say: "Let me have a go."

Bored: Interest begins to wane as the lions can't open the tortoise shell

'One of the very experienced guides who was with us said they had only ever seen lions playing with a tortoise like this once before. It was a rare sight and I felt very privileged to witness it.

'I don't actually think the lions would have been capable of carving the tortoise open because they have very thick shells and are incredibly well designed for defence.'

It was identified as a leopard tortoise - the fourth largest species of tortoise in the world. Adults typically reach 18 in in size and weigh 40lbs.

They defend themselves from predators by retracting their feet and head into their shell. This often results in a hissing sound, probably due to the squeezing of air from the lungs as the limbs and head are retracted.

They can move relatively fast and stay underwater for 10 minutes.

source: dailymail

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