Henry the Tortoise Is Looking for a Part-Time Walker

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If you live in New York City, love reptiles, and are looking for a slow-paced side gig, a local pet owner is hiring a weekday walker to take her African spurred tortoise on leisurely nature walks.

Harlem resident (and former Mental Floss contributor) Amanda Green adopted Henry three years ago. She works during the day, but her pet gets restless at home—so in March 2016, Green posted a Craigslist ad looking for someone to take Henry for strolls in nearby Central Park.

“Henry's very active when the weather's nice and paces around the apartment,” Green tells Mental Floss. “A bored tortoise can be a destructive tortoise."

News of the ad went viral, and Green received “hundreds and hundreds” of job applications from around the world. She ended up hiring Amalia McCallister, an animal-loving neighbor who worked at a local pet store. Now, McCallister is moving away to Chicago, and Green needs to find a replacement walker.

The tortoise-walking gig pays $11 an hour, according to a new Craigslist ad posted by Green. Since Henry weighs around 20 pounds, Green provides walkers with a pet stroller to transport the massive critter to and from Central Park. Once Henry arrives, “he starts his park trips by mowing the lawn, especially dandelions,” Green says. “After a while, he'll stroll the trails or along any fence line he can find. (The guy loves a perimeter.) Then he'll snack more and sun after a while. Sometimes he digs a little, too.”

The job has its challenges: For one, Henry roams freely in the grass without a leash, so the chosen candidate will need to keep a very close eye on him. “Henry is surprisingly energetic and fearless,” Green writes in her Craigslist ad. “The biggest thing to watch out for is him eating trash or kids trying to feed him.”

Also, being a tortoise walker is “more physical than people expect,” Green says. “Henry's essentially a kettlebell with four legs. He needs help in and out of the stroller, and I live in a third-floor walkup apartment. The job can also require being stern with people. A few times per year, some mansplainer will tell me I should allow Henry to swim (he'd die) or live in the park all year long (he'd die), and I have to explain tortoises to him. I've also had people try to feed Henry donuts and other forbidden foods, which is annoying. For the most part, though, people are great.”

Finally, you’ll have to pick up Henry’s poop. (For the record, Green notes that it's “quite dry and looks like the grass he eats all day.")

One perk of the job? If you're single, Henry might help you score a date. “I've told my single guy friends that Henry's the ultimate wingman,” Green says. “Women love him."

Green’s ad has already received close to 100 responses, so if you want to toss your hat into the ring, you should reply sooner rather than later. And even if you don’t end up getting hired, you can still follow Henry's adventures on Instagram.

[h/t Gothamist]

Goat Your Own Way: In North Wales, a Herd of Goats Is Taking Advantage of the Empty Streets

"We gon' run this town tonight!" —These goats, probably.
"We gon' run this town tonight!" —These goats, probably.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

While residents stay indoors to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the deserted streets and flower gardens of Llandudno, Wales, have become a playground for a people-shy herd of wild Kashmir goats.

The animals live on the Great Orme, a nearby stretch of rocky limestone land that juts out over the Irish Sea, and they’re known to sojourn in Llandudno around this time when rainy or windy weather makes their high-ground home more treacherous than usual. This year, however, the goats are being especially adventurous.

“They are curious, goats are, and I think they are wondering what's going on like everybody else,” town councilor Carol Marubbi told BBC News. “There isn't anyone else around, so they probably decided they may as well take over.”

The goats have spent their jaunt balancing atop stone walls, trotting through the town center, and munching on flowers and hedges in people’s yards. But nobody seems to mind—Marubbi told BBC News that the locals are proud of the animals and happy to watch them gallivant through the streets from their windows.

While the herd has been living on the Great Orme for more than a century, the goats aren’t native to the region. According to Llandudno’s website, Squire Christopher Tower bought two goats from a large herd in France that had been imported from Kashmir, India. He then used them to breed his own herd in England. Sometime during the 18th century, he gifted two of them to King George IV, who developed another herd at Windsor. The goats’ wool was used to produce cashmere shawls, which became particularly popular during Queen Victoria’s reign in the mid-19th century. She then gave two goats to Major General Sir Savage Mostyn, who took them to his family estate, Gloddaeth Hall, in Llandudno.

It’s unclear why or how they were eventually let loose on the Great Orme, but they managed to acclimate to their new environment and thrive in the northern wilderness.

Today, there are more than 120 goats in the herd, and it certainly looks like they’re enjoying their all-inclusive vacation.

[h/t BBC News]

The Tiger Who Came to Tea … In the Middle of Rural Yorkshire

If you lived in Holmfirth, England, in the 1940s, there's a good chance you would've found a tiger like this one wandering around town.
If you lived in Holmfirth, England, in the 1940s, there's a good chance you would've found a tiger like this one wandering around town.
photoguru81/iStock via Getty Images

According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild. This is especially true in the United States, where backyard zoos and cub petting operations are successful—if controversial—businesses. Big cat ownership is more heavily regulated in the UK than it is in the U.S., but that wasn’t always the case. More than 70 years ago, there was at least one pet tiger living in England.

To the people of Britain, Holmfirth, 20 miles outside of Manchester, is probably best known as the picturesque setting of Last of the Summer Wine, the BBC show that ran for a staggering 37 years from 1973 to 2010 and is now appropriately credited as being the world’s longest running sitcom. But back in the early 1940s, the village was known locally as the home of Fenella the Holmfirth Tiger.

Fenella’s story actually begins more than 8000 miles away in South Africa, where she was adopted by a family of circus performers and acrobats from Yorkshire, the Overends, in the late 1930s. While touring South Africa with a traveling circus in 1939, the Overend family was offered two newborn circus tiger cubs to rear and eventually incorporate into their act. One of the cubs died barely a week later, but the other—given the name Fenella, or “Feney” for short—survived.

The Overends were forced to return to England after the outbreak of the Second World War. They took Fenella home with them to live (albeit after a brief stay in quarantine) in the back garden of their house in Holmfirth. Although she had a specially built hut and enclosure, the tiger eventually began spending just as much time in the family house as she did in the garden, and according to her owners, soon became extraordinarily tame.

The family would take her for walks through the village, including past the local primary school, where she became a firm favorite among the pupils. When the local council began to raise questions over just how tame Fenella really was, the sight of her walking calmly while being petted by all the schoolchildren as they returned from their lunch break was all it took to quash their worries.

Holmfirth viewed from the cemetery
Holmfirth in the 21st century, with nary a tiger in sight.
Tim Green, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Fenella was sometimes permitted to run in the fields around the village, where she reportedly made friends with a local cart horse—which is surprising, given she was raised on a diet of horse meat and fish (fish and chips were one of her favorite treats). She apparently also had a fondness for climbing trees to take a nap, and supposedly had a habit of dropping down from the branches and, fairly understandably, surprising passersby. But soon the sight of a fully grown 9-foot Sumatran tigress casually idling her way through the village’s cobbled streets became the norm for the people of Holmfirth.

Fenella was intended to be a performing tiger. Similar to the cub petting operations that still exist in the U.S., visitors could pay sixpence to sit and pet her while the family was on tour. She was also worked into the family’s circus performances by staging a mock wrestling match with her owner. But though the Overends put the big cat to work, they considered her a beloved family pet rather than just another part of their act.

Sadly, Fenella died of a kidney infection during one of the family’s tours in 1950 when she was just over 10 years old. She was buried in the neighbor’s garden, which was said to be one of her favorite hunting grounds. Fenella is still remembered fondly in and around Holmfirth. In 2016, she was a highlight of the Holmfirth Arts Festival, which celebrated the cat’s life with an exhibition of photographs and archival footage of her and the Overend family. Exotic pets might not have remained as popular in the UK as they once were, but Fenella’s popularity at least remains intact.

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