While many would shun away from the idea of tortoise rearing for a source of income, Peter Maundu a farmer on in Kitui East Constituency, has been making the most out of the venture for the last fourteen years since he started the business.
Tortoises generally require a warm, dry habitat. All too often they will burrow for shelter with the long flat claws on their front feet that gradually slant down and eventually level out, explaining why they have grown to maturity in the rocky terrain in Maundu’s five-acre farm and the dry weather condition that is sometimes prevalent in Kitui.
Maundu served as an administrator before realizing that he could make the most out of conserving an endangered species of wildlife with his vast farm and the inadequate rainfall in the region.
He noted that he started small with just a handful of leopard tortoises, only for the demand to grow over time.
“I started with twenty leopard tortoises. Now I have over 2000 leopard and pancake species of tortoises in my Kitui and Kibwezi farm,” he mentioned
Leopard tortoises are round and large while pancake tortoises are flat thinned with a flexible shell. Depending on the species, tortoise love to feed on a high-fiber diet of grass hay, leafy greens, vegetables. They must be provided with fresh food and water daily while in the case of adult tortoises they need to be fed every other day. Maundu figured a pocket-friendly to keep the animals alive and today he exports to the USA, Germany, and China
“I have a farm by the river bank, where I get lots of greens and watermelon remnants to feed them. I sometimes buy them greens when needed,” he said
Nine inches long tortoises fetch $12 to $30 depending on the market dynamics. Despite having a market for his products, Maundo has suffered in the hands of fluctuating markets and middlemen who have been crippling the business. But hope that in the near future, they will have a direct link to the market to revive the dwindling returns to Kitui farmers at large.