SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. – Bob the tortoise ambled surprisingly quickly toward a group of kids clustered on the Lewisboro Library’s front lawn as they squealed with surprise and then scattered in all directions.
“Oh, Bob likes the color of your shoes!” Linda Gould laughed as she went to retrieve the 150-pound tortoise, assuring the kids that Bob was a vegetarian.
Gould owns Turtle Hill Farm in Pawling and was at the library this week on a mission to educate young students about all things turtle and tortoise. Gould, a former Lewisboro resident, has been working with the reptiles for nearly 17 years.
“I went to Africa and came across a leopard tortoise and that piqued my interest,” Gould said. “I ended up getting a couple but realized I didn’t really know how to take care of them. I ended up becoming a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo reptile house to learn more about it.”
Turtle Hill Farm has become a sanctuary of sorts for Gould’s turtle and tortoise friends. Most of the animals are adopted from people who can no longer take care of them, which has created quite a menagerie. Visitors to the farm will find mata mata turtles from the Amazon, black marsh turtles from Asia, as well as big-head turtles and red-eared sliders. And, of course, there’s Bob the tortoise, who Gould estimates is around 26 years old, and his smaller sidekick, Peanut – who was making her public debut at the library.
“This is Peanut’s first time at one of these shows, so she’s a little shy,” Gould said.
Children’s Librarian Cathy Lim said it was the second time the library has had Gould and her turtles as guests and noted that it was a very popular event.
“She was here before and the kids loved her, so we brought her back” Lim said. “We had more than 40 sign up for this one.”
Gould’s young audience was mesmerized by the reptiles – particularly Bob and Peanut, as Gould gave out facts and information about the animals. (Turtles have flippers to swim in the water; tortoises don’t.)
“Some people are afraid of turtles, but they’re more afraid of us,” Gould told the young group – many of whom twittered nervously, while others boldly stroked the shells of Peanut and Bob and cooed encouragement.
Peanut, however, would still not come out of her shell.
“Maybe next time,” Gould said.