Russian tortoises are found in arid, open landscapes with sparse vegetation. They have adapted well to life in Uzbekistan's high, mountain desert but in order to survive in such a harsh place, they're only active from March until June. They hibernate during the winter and aestivate through the hottest part of the summer.
Recently their world has been turned upside down. Russian Tortoises are being captured, heaped into crates without food or water, and shipped to the United States. Brand name stores confine them into small glass tanks and then sell them to pet-loving Americans. We are currently providing a sanctuary for two such refugees that were bestowed upon us as a gift.
We've created a large indoor enclosure but they prefer to be in the outdoor pen foraging for their favorite food, dandelions. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the tortoises appear to be healthy and happy. Our dry, mountain habitat probably reminds them of home. They're avid diggers and like to spend hot summer days burrowed into the cool earth. I hate to see wild animals like these lose their freedom. I'm sure this isn't the life they would choose but we're doing the best we can.