The owner of what is believed to be the largest collection of two-headed animals in the world is of two minds over what to do with the latest member of his menagerie: a two-headed turtle.
Todd Ray, who runs the Venice Beach Freakshow in Los Angeles, recently came into possession of the double-domed turtle after a person called him requesting help with the tiny creature, which he believes is an Eastern Box turtle.
"I got a phone call from a kid near Compton whose grandfather has turtles," Ray told HuffPost Weird News exclusively. "The man had two conjoined turtles and the boy wanted to try and save them.
"I told him how to hydrate them and told him to give them time to eat, because one head will claw the other one in front of him, not realizing they can't get away."
Try as he might, the owner wasn't getting a positive response and was, frankly, a little shellshocked at the thought the tiny two-headed turtle might die, so he brought them to Ray, who estimates he has raised as many as 40 such animals over the years.
"He wasn't sure what he should do," Ray said. "They're weren't moving. They are very little, maybe about six weeks old, and when I first saw them, they were motionless. But I grabbed one of the legs and it pulled back."
Although he has been able to get them hydrated and even eat some worm -- provided he mushes it up first -- they are sort of waffling back and forth between being listless and lively.
"It doesn't appear as if they're going to improve so I'm considering doing something I never have before: Getting them surgically separated," he said.
Ray has consulted with local veterinarians and most of them believe the turtles should be euthanized. However, since Box turtles can live upwards of 50 years, he'd like to see if separating them could help them live a full life.
"This is the very first time I have ever wanted to separate two animals," he said. "I love animals as they are born and have struggled with the idea of separating animals that have been created together."
Beside their tiny size, the turtles are belly-to-belly with each other and they are only connected in one area about the size of a dime.
"It's hard to see if any internal organs are connected," Ray said. "I don't know if we can scan them unless they eat something."
Separating conjoined humans is unusual, but it's not uncommon. However, separating conjoined animals is so rare that most vets contacted have never heard of it.
One vet who is credited with doing such an operation is Dr. Douglas Folland of Centerville, Utah, who allegedly separated conjoined robins earlier this year.
He says that wasn't exactly the case.
"The birds were not conjoined," he insisted to HuffPost Weird News. "They were attached by a piece of fiber that wrapped around the wing and somehow penetrated them.
"I think the owner may have called them 'conjoined' to save face."
Dr. Folland says he's not even sure that separating conjoined animals like Ray is suggesting has even been tried.
"With humans, they will go in and divide the organs if they have to," he said. "It could be done with animals, but, as far as I know, it hasn't been done in veterinary medicine. If the [turtles] are just separated by skin, it can be done fairly easy.
"From the photo, it looks like they are sharing at least the plastron, which is the bottom shell," he said. "That would be a tough separation because they both need a plastron. It is not something that will grow back."
Still, Ray is trying to convince his vet to do the operation, but he fears time is running out.
"He examined them today and said they need to be eating better before we try it," he said. "They are conjoined a little more than I thought, so it is riskier than I thought. I'm nervous for them. I just tried to feed them again and they barely ate."
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more