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Peanut Butter, Jelly take bite out of life

Former conjoined tortoises go separate ways at home

By Jeordan Legon

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Condition reports on the turtles can be obtained by sending an e-mail to:
Conjoined Tortoises

(CNN) -- Peanut Butter and Jelly are savoring their independence.

The former conjoined tortoises -- who drew worldwide media attention when they were separated in a delicate three-hour operation February 8 -- returned home to Tucson, Arizona, this week showing signs of relishing their separate lives, owners Sharon and Bobby Ehasz said.

"They have very different personalities," said Bobby Ehasz, 29, an Air Force officer who rescued the African leopard tortoises after seeing them for sale on a popular reptile Web site.

While they remained close in the hours following surgery, Peanut Butter -- the more vivacious of the two -- loves exploring his new 10-gallon tank, peeks his head out often and eats nonstop. His brother, Jelly, prefers snoozing under a heat lamp.

"Our biggest fear was knowing that they could both die," Ehasz said. "Thank goodness they're still here."

The prognosis for Peanut Butter is excellent, said veterinarian Jim Jarchow of Orange Grove Animal Hospital who operated on the reptiles at no charge except for the cost of anesthesia. But Jelly's future is less certain, he said.

Jarchow said Peanut Butter is more robust because he kept the large intestine that was shared by both animals. African leopard turtles, which have 15- to 20-year life spans, depend on bacteria in their large intestines to break down plant food.

Jelly will have to make do with only his small intestine. It's still uncertain whether the stomach tube used to feed him a liquid diet of soybeans, egg yolks and minerals will be enough to sustain him.

"I'm sure we're going to have problems," Jarchow said. "How serious, we still don't know."

Ehasz said his wife worries that bills will keep piling up to care for the 4-inch turtles, whose scars are covered in gauze hardened with epoxy. Already, the couple said they used part of their tax refund check to pay roughly $300 in anesthesia bills. That's in addition to $700 they shelled out to buy the 3-year-old reptiles in December.

More hospital stays and surgeries also may be needed to correct a curvature in the turtles' bottom shell, which keeps them from walking properly.

"It's all worked out the way it should have so far," Ehasz said, thanking a handful of donors who helped pay for medicines and a new plexiglass-enclosed home he's building for the pets. "It's our responsibility to keep taking care of them."

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