Fantasy books are filled with stories about two-headed dragons and two- headed monsters, but who has ever heard of a two-headed tortoise?
This is exactly what Noël Daniels, a welder of Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa, discovered when he went into his backyard and found this strange newcomer hatched from an egg amongst his pet tortoises.
Daniels is the owner of seven tortoises, as terrestrial turtles are commonly known. They live with his parrots and pigeons in a dovecote. The strange tortoise's shell is flat underneath and not rounded at the belly as usual, he says.
The two heads are joined separately to a shared body.
"But it seems quite normal and both heads feed on grass, leaves, and softened rabbit pellets," Daniels said. "When it gets scared, however, [the] heads move in different directions as if confused. Sometimes its legs also want to move in different directions. Luckily, it moves quite slowly. There seems to be enough time to figure out which way to go."
The month-old tortoise's shell is about five centimeters (two inches) wide.
Ernst Baard, manager of scientific services of Cape Nature Conservation, an expert on South African tortoises, said that the phenomenon of two heads is extremely rare. To his knowledge, it is only the second reported case of its kind in South Africa in over 20 years. The other one was discovered in the early 1980s.