(C) The Sunny Zoo 陽光動物園 2017
"Oh sure, I once did a TAFE Diploma on turtle matchmaking," said Mrs Keeper.
Mr Keeper was mildly surprised, "Really?" You never knew with Mrs Keeper, she was a serial learning addict and did courses on all sorts of odd things. Like Russian. And tatting.
"NOT!" Mrs Keeper sighed, and took a closer look at the long-necked turtle, whose name turned out to be... Algae. He said he liked the stuff and enjoyed collecting different types. Not that anyone else could tell. But this struck a chord with Mrs Keeper, who also collected succulent plants and could therefore appreciate the mentality of a fellow madcap collector. So she was determined to help him find what he was looking for: a girlfriend!
They were still in the garden enjoying the sunshine, but most of the guinea pigs had lost interest and wandered off to play or nap or eat. The finches carried on nest building with Ellie's assistance; she was very good at chewing uncooperative stalks of hay into compliance. Banana, Marbles and the frogs all went back to bed, so only Knobby the bearded dragon and Spotty the guinea pig were left for the brain-storming session.
Mr Keeper suggested, "What about St Ferris Park nearby? They have lots of ponds, and I remember Big Kid saw turtles there."
They all thought it was a great idea, but just in case, Mrs Keeper brought out her tablet and searched the St Ferris Park website for information about the ponds. "Habitat of many Macquarie river turtles? Would that work?"
Algae drew back his long neck rapidly in alarm, "Oh no! They are vicious creatures, those short-necked river turtles with pointy beaks! Great big bullies, we don't get on with them."
Well, that was that. They went back to the drawing board but sadly didn't get anywhere. They simply couldn't think of anywhere that might be a long-necked turtle hangout. After some time - quite some time actually, enough to fit lunch into it, and Algae had a piece of the classy barramundi fish that Mrs Keeper happened to be defrosting for dinner - Mrs Keeper had a brainwave! (The full stomach must have helped.)
"I know!" said Mrs Keeper excitedly, "I'll write a post on our local Facebook group, and see if anyone else knows about long-necked turtles! If it's breeding season, someone's bound to have seen lots of your buddies somewhere!" Indeed, when they logged onto the page and scrolled down, there was a post reminding people to slow down because someone already saw five turtles crossing a busy road - in one morning! And three squashed ones.... which Mrs Keeper refrained from reading out to Algae. "Goodness, looks like you have a lot of competition for your gal, Algae! All right, let's see..."
Mrs Keeper thought for a moment and then typed: "Hi people! We found an exhausted long-necked turtle outside our garage door. Would like to help it along to its breeding ground. Anyone know where the local long-necker bachelors hang out? Thanks!" She pressed SEND. "Now we wait!"
They didn't have to wait long. Within an hour a lady named Inga responded with a comment: "We have a dam and long neck turtles living in it. If you can't find anywhere else, you can bring it here." When Mrs Keeper sent her a private message, she clarified: "We have lots of turtles and see them wandering around the garden, looking to lay eggs!"
That sounded like Turtle Heaven!!! The one that Algae didn't have to die first to get into, that is. "Yippee, I think we've found your new home!" Mrs Keeper grinned at the turtle next to her, who was excitedly shaking Knobby and Spotty's paws. The ladies exchanged a few more private messages, Mrs Keeper wrote down the address, and arranged to drop Algae off at 6pm after Little Kid finished her jazz dance lesson.
Everyone wanted to go and say goodbye, so Mr Keeper had to drive their double-decker bus, Star Ferry. Inga and her two little boys were flabbergasted to see such a large send-off delegation, but soon recovered and led the way down to the dam. Ther guinea pigs had to be called back from the tempting long grasses: "There are red-bellied black snakes around! Sorry, my husband hasn't finished the mowing yet!"
It was the most enormous private dam they had ever seen, beautifully landscaped and as Inga described earlier, surrounded by flowing lawns where turtles would undoubtedly find plenty of nesting spots. The property actually backed onto a corner of the national park, which was probably why there were so many turtles here in the first place.
Big Kid carried Algae, and everyone climbed down the rocks to the edge of the dam. "Bye bye Algae, we'll miss you!" sniffed Spotty.
"Yes, we'll be thinking of you, Algae!" said Mrs Keeper, giving the back of his shell a gentle pat. "I'll be surprised if you didn't have a girlfriend by the weekend!"
"Thank you so much, everyone!" Algae blinked off the tears in his eyes, "I can't believe that I almost died this morning, and now I'm here, in this amazing place! I will never forget you all at the Sunny Zoo! Waaaaaaaaah!!"
"There now, there now..." said Spotty soothingly. All the animals shook paws with the turtle again, until Chocolate the guinea pig slipped (or was pushed by one of his siblings) and fell into the water and had to be fished out with a swimming pool net.
Finally Algae was ready to go. After one last wave to his friends, he tested the water with a webbed foot, then paddled down into the dark green depths of the dam. A minute later he came back up again: "Wow you won't believe it, I just saw this group of nice ladies down by the most stunning patch of Cladophora algae! Do you think I should talk to the ladies first or get the algae?"
They all laughed. "Go talk to the ladies first!" said Mrs Keeper firmly. "The algae will still be there tomorrow!"
Eventually they said their (really) final goodbyes, thanked Inga profusely for her generosity, and Algae sank down into his new home, promising to keep in touch by bird mail.
"Well, that was a great job!" said Mr Keeper, as they drove away in the Star Ferry bus. "Are you sure you didn't do a turtle matchmaking course, dear?"
"Maybe I should run one," Mrs Keeper rolled her eyes. "There's probably a market for it every March!"
The Sunny Zoo
The animals at the Sunny Zoo enjoy their many freedoms, including having access to the Internet and a blog.
(C) The Sunny Zoo 陽光動物園 2017