When the first snapping turtle surfaced, village authorities were surprised. It got its picture in the paper, and an expert from the Lausanne Vivarium came and hauled it off, saying the turtle had probably been living there for ages, unnoticed. Great trepidation in the hamlet of Renens. These things can bite off your arm!

Then a second, younger, turtle was found. The expert said it had probably been released quite recently into the pond, judging from its shell.

In a sidebar entitled “l’Italie colonisée”, we learn that snapping turtles are endemic to the Everglades, and that large established populations have been found in Alaska and in Italy. They can walk up to 40 km looking for food, weigh up to 40 kilos, and will eat anything that they come across. Birds, fish, rats, children…

Thursday, a third turtle, the same size as number two, was fished from the pond. They could be sisters, said the expert.

“C’est la carapace de trop,” read the article. One shell too many. Notices have gone up around the pond, and the village authorities are draining it to see if there are any more vicious reptiles lurking evilly in the depths.

The expert says that un certain psychose s’est installée dans la population. That’s French for “people are freaking out.”

Someone might have bought it for their child, ten years ago, not realizing that these turtles can live for 80 years or more, said the expert. Who buys a snapping turtle as a pet? What, are they crazy? He estimates that maybe 1,000 of these things are living in aquariums around Switzerland.

Happy birthday, junior! Here’s a nasty limb-snapping turtle that will live longer than you will! Of course I love you, why do you ask?

The expert estimates that it will cost him 10,000 Swiss francs to shelter the three turtles. I’m guessing that means they’ll be served pinot noir with their rodent-based diet.

These aren’t the only castaways washing up on the Vivarium’s doorstep. Three caimans, (two of which are more than three meters long!), iguanas, dozens of frogs and snakes have all come crawling out of the woodwork (or someone’s toilet?) in the month of June alone.

Who knew our orderly city contained so much reptilian restlessness? If this is happening in calm, quiet Lausanne, what’s going on in, say, New York? I have to admit I’ve never spared a lot of thought for the world of abandoned reptiles. My horizons have now been broadened.

The turtles aren’t the only things making their way up from Italy.  A hunter reportedly saw a bear in Eastern Switzerland in the vicinity of the Italian border. It’s accused of killing and wounding sheep. Do bears attack sheep? In my experience, they usually go after garbage. Maybe Switzerland is too clean? They should head over to Naples, where there’s garbage galore.

2 thoughts on “Snap!

  1. This article is juste too good! I once during a "passeport vacances" went to visit a farm. The guy had some sort of huge barrel with water in it. He went to fetch a grill meat turner (or some other long utensile), dipped it in the barrel and after a loud snap (even through the water.. imagine…) he pulled out this enormous croco-turtle. He thought it was the best thing since sliced bread… I asked him where it came from, he said "there's a whole herd of them in the middle of the lake!!" Haven't swam from a boat on lake Leman since… (so to say he really broadened my horizons!)

  2. Little did your mom know when she packed you off on your "educational" farm visit you'd be hosted by a mad paysan who kept dangerous reptiles in barrels! and without a permit! A herd of snapping turtles in the middle of the lake.. I think I'll think twice before taking a dip now, too. That and the puces de canard…

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