How many turtles and tortoises live in the backyard of Gary and Ginger Wilfong Castro Valley home?
Your guess is as good as theirs.
"The gal from animal control was here counting." Ginger recalls. And "when she got to 115, she says I'm not going to count anymore."
What that means, Ginger says, is that according to their permit, the Wilfongs "own" the first 115 turtles, the rest are considered rescue animals.
"It's just one little part of the world that we try to help," Gary says.
The Wilfongs got their first tortoise in 1987, after Ginger developed an allergy to fur and the animals they did have, such as rabbits, were not longer an option as pets.
The two were so fond of the animals their collection grew and grew. "Well they don’t talk back," Ginger says, "and they don’t you know cause a ruckus." They eventually started taking in turtles that were no longer wanted by their owners and turtles that were rescued and seized by state wildlife authorities.
The Wilfong's affection for turtles and tortoises eventually became a recognized rescue operation. Over the years hundreds of animals have been brought to them from all over Northern California and the world. "They've come from Africa, South America, Afghanistan, Indonesia, you name it," Gary says.
There is, it seems, a never-ending supply of animals in need of a place to live, matched only by Gary and Ginger's never-ending dedication to them. The couple spend every day, morning until night, caring for the animals. They don't take vacations. They also don't take any money to help run their rescue. "We don't apply for grants. Too much paperwork," Ginger says.