WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - If you happened to pass by the corner of Independence and Oleander Drive Thursday and thought your eyes were playing tricks on you, they weren’t. That large hard-shelled creature with a child on its back was actually an African spurred tortoise that belongs to Randy Gallagher, also known as the “Turtleman.”
Gallagher travels all across the Carolinas setting up in empty lots at busy intersections. He has about a half dozen of the tortoises that he allows children to ride.
"Bring 'em out, let people look at the turtles and enjoy them-see things they’ve never seen before except maybe on TV,” Gallagher says.
The African spurred tortoise, also known as the sulcata tortoise, is native to the Sahara Desert in Africa. It’s the third-largest species of tortoise in the world and can live to be over 100 years old.
Gallagher takes in the large tortoises that are no longer wanted as pets.
“We’re a rescue unit, we rescue animals,” he says. “People buy things as pets. We make sure they get homes."
There’s no charge to ride the turtles but he does accept donations.