Born and raised in India, I grew up listening to the local myth that turtles are bad luck. India is a country where exotic animals are not kept as pets, in fact there is very little awareness among people about the native wildlife but thankfully that is changing as we speak. The little exposure to chelonians came in the form of visit to zoos or from watching the small group of star tortoises and an unknown aquatic species of turtles that were raised at the school that I attended. Maybe that’s where it all started? I always had pets but there never really was any strong desire to raise a reptile as pet. But that all changed in 2001. Feng Shui became a big hit in India in the late 1990s and with that there was an overload of turtle figurines at stores. Maybe it was the rebel in me, or the abundance of curiousness, but I couldn’t help but wonder how turtles can bring good luck for our neighbors in China and bad luck to Indians. I decided I would find out when the opportunity arose and managed to purchase two young red-eared sliders, that were possibly smuggled into the country along with ornamental fishes. Since then I have not looked back. What started in 2001 as a curious experiment, if you will, turned into a serious obsession and has matured into a focus on chelonian conservation.
A software engineer by profession, when I am not busy at work or being a dad I am busy with something or other with regards to chelonians. As a member of the Sacramento Turtle and Tortoise club I have been helping with questions of fellow club members or other hobbyists and help rehome chelonians that their owners cannot care for anymore. I am also a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator with the Bidwell wildlife rehabilitation group in Chico, CA and help rehabilitate all the turtles and tortoises that come to their doors. I love talking about turtles and answering questions about turtles and I am always glad to help folks take better care of their pet turtles or tortoises. I also participate in local public outreach programs that focus on animals, especially wildlife, and work in educating the public about California’s native chelonian species and their current status. When time permits I also visit local schools with my chelonians and do short presentations to educate the kids about the worlds chelonians.
I am an active member of Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group (TTPG) and I am working on select breeding projects with both groups with the hope that the offspring will help with species propagation. My focus is on a few North American species and lately I have started focusing on many Asian species. I have successfully bred North American wood turtles, North American spotted turtles, Redfoot tortoises, Reeves turtles, Razor back musk turtles and common musk turtles.
Editors Note: Michael currently authors Turtle Times for Herpetoculture House Magazine