Many animal organizations start off as small groups of friends with a shared passion, and this was the case for the Philippine Tortoise Enthusiasts (PTE).

In October 2012, about twenty friends with a shared passion and love for tortoises decided to form a group whose main goal, mission, and vision was “…to attain and meet the conservation of these lovely animals; to find and meet people who share the same inspirations, aspirations, and insights as us.”

And so the PTE was born as a nonprofit group, and to attain their goals, its members work to constantly educate those who are willing to help contribute to the right ways to conserve all tortoise species. Now on its third year, the PTE continues to be a family of tortoise enthusiasts and lovers, albeit one which has grown by leaps and bounds to about 1,700 enthusiasts.

What’s the appeal? It’s not the group, insists PTE president Zik Ferrer, it’s the animal itself; they may seem to do very little but their quiet lives can do much to de-stress anyone who watches tortoises. “It may not seem like it but each tortoise has its own distinct personality; if a person has kept a few for quite some time, he or she would be able to distinguish who’s who no matter how much they look alike because of their unique personalities.

No words, statements, expressions, nor phrases can explain the distinct feeling of happiness and relaxation tortoises can bring to their owners. For one to understand that feeling, one must experience taking care of a tortoise and the inexplicable state of happiness that follows.”

Because they want to share this bliss, the organization is open to anyone who loves and appreciates tortoises—whether or not they own one. PTE offers members the chance to share experiences and knowledge within a group that shares the same sentiment: to treat tortoises (and each other) as members of a big family.

“We would love to see more people getting into this healthy, stress-relieving and very relaxing hobby,” says Zik. To this end, they are willing to work with the concerned government departments to contribute to the conservation of tortoises.

Their belief is that If tortoises are in the hands of individuals or government departments who have been trained to provide the best of care and to understand, through knowledge, these creatures’ behavior, then it is safe to assume that the conservation and propagation of these animals is going in the right direction.

“We started out as a very small group and did everything from scratch, and throughout the years, we have been spreading the love, passion and knowledge to aspiring keepers and enthusiasts for the animals’ sake, survivability, and conservation,” adds Zik.

Learn more about the Philippine Tortoise Enthusiasts or join them at https://www.facebook.com/philippinetortoiseenthusiasts.

This appeared without a byline in Animal Scene’s October 2015 issue.