Oxiana was found wandering the streets of Charlottesville, and he was more than likely someone's released pet. Oxiana's rescuer recognized that he wasn’t a native species and brought him to RWS. Non-native species are not releasable, so Oxiana has remained here ever since as an ambassador. He enjoys basking in his enclosure heat lamp and eating fresh veggies!

Russian tortoises are endemic (native) to the high deserts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Russia. These tortoises were initially brought to the USA in the early 1970s as part of the pet trade due to their small size and friendly personalities. Sometimes, however, irresponsible pet owners dump their exotic pets into the wild. This can be devastating not only for the pet, which won’t know how to survive in the wild (like Oxiana), but it can also devastate our native ecosystems. For example, invasive boa constrictors in the Florida Everglades have led to a 90-99% drop in native mammal populations. Oxiana's story is a good reminder that pet ownership is a commitment and a responsibility - to that pet and to our environment.

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