American Tortoise Rescue Honors “Senior Class” at Sanctuary

August 5, 2022

Spinner is a special needs turtle.

Bunkle is American Tortoise Rescue's Mascot and First Rescued Turtle in 1990s.

Spinner was hurt and unable to eat. She has been hand fed for 25 years at the sanctuary

Squish, Bunkle, Spinner, Queenie and Fluffy Featured on New Shirts

Since 1990, more than 4,000 turtles and tortoises have passed through the gates at American Tortoise Rescue’s sanctuary in Malibu, CA.”
— Susan Tellem, Executive Director, American Tortoise Rescue

MALIBU, CALIFORNIA, US, August 5, 2022 / -- American Tortoise Rescue launches “Senior Class,” a fundraiser honoring the sanctuary’s oldest residents. Squish, Bunkle, Spinner, Queenie and Fluffy are each featured on the new shirts and totes available at:

Since 1990, more than 4,000 turtles and tortoises have passed through the gates at American Tortoise Rescue’s sanctuary in Malibu, CA. Some were lost, some were no longer wanted by their owners and some were being smuggled on their way to other countries. Each one has a story…some happy, some sad and some Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, the co-founders, will never know. They come in many sizes, colors, shapes and personalities. Some are funny and some like to hide; some love worms and others like to eat strawberries.

Squish – An Eastern Box Turtle, he came to the rescue with a caved in waist formed by a plastic ring around canned drinks that someone carelessly tossed on the ground. He lives normally on the easy coast, but came to us many years ago, and we removed the ring, letting his growth pattern be normal. Now 30 years later, there is only a small concave part on one side where it used to be.

Bunkle, an Eastern box turtle, was the first land turtle to arrive at American Tortoise Rescue in 1990. The sanctuary received a call from someone who had found him wandering in the street in a nearby town. He immediately took over as king of the shelter, bossing every new turtle that comes in. His strong presence and constant patrolling of the sanctuary earned him the title of “mascot” which he holds 32 years later.

Spinner is an old three toed box turtle, one of many millions taken out of the wild with cruel hooks to feed an insatiable pet trade. Spinner is a special needs turtle who got her name because she constantly turns in one direction due to a spinal injury from either a car or a human that left her unable to move her arms and legs properly. She’s part of a population of about 100 unadoptable turtles with special needs at the sanctuary special needs hospital where she has spent 20+ years, and lives with other special needs turtles who need daily supervision.

Queenie - An Asian box turtle, Queenie is one of many exported out of Asia in bulk to feed a growing pet trade, as well as an appetite for food or medicinal aids. Queenie suffers from many deformities as a result of poor care from her former owner, including a misshapen jaw and overgrown shell (note the thick deformed carapace). She joined a population of about 25 Asians at ATR, most of which suffer from similar problems. These turtles are shy and gentle creatures who just want to be wild, so they have free run of the sanctuary where they eat, hide and sleep safely.

Fluffy is a Cooter, a water turtle from the Midwest area, but probably dumped in the L.A. River when no one wanted her anymore. She was our first water turtle adopted in 1994 from a boy in a pet store who had her in his backpack. She was an adult back then, so she has to be at least 35 to 50 years old. She is the queen of the pond hanging out sunning herself all summer. Several years after getting Fluffy, we adopted another Cooter named Einstein (a girl) from a skittish mom-to-be. They live together in a pond at American Tortoise Rescue.

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Susan Tellem
American Tortoise Rescue
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