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Tortoise Tips. Anyone?

(21 Posts)
JustcallmeDog Thu 13-Aug-09 22:23:28

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JustcallmeDog Thu 13-Aug-09 22:24:40

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lazydog Thu 13-Aug-09 22:35:58

Hi there,

I keep and breed tortoises and have been obsessed with them since the early 90s. I find them fascinating rather than "fun" but they do have individual characters and can be amusing to watch.

If your garden is completely secure and safe (i.e. no pond, steps down to another level, no pet dog, no potential for foxes to get in) then the tortoise, once it is grown, could spend a lot of time free range, but far better is to construct a secure, spacious enclosure for them.

Please, whatever you do, don't rush to buy one. If you do and end up getting one from a reptile store or online dealer (often falsely claiming to be breeders) you will end up with a whole host of problems down the line.

Being mega-lazy here, sorry, but can you please check out my replies in this previous thread, rather than re-typing it here:

Also, I think the following "best answer" I gave to a similar question on Yahoo Answers, recently, has a lot of relevant info:;_ylt=AoSNasc2yq5MOUcKxErBpS7ty6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20090709055557AAqxiqZ

If you get a species that hibernates (not all do!) then yes, you should really control their hibernation. Some tortoises in the UK seem to cope with just digging themselves down into a covered area of earth in the garden for the Winter, but for every one that survives doing that, plenty will have died due to post hibernation anorexia, frost damage, rodent attack, whatever...

The smaller the tortoise, the more critical it is that hibernation temperatures are perfect, as any weight loss will be far more detrimental to an already tiny tortoise. I use a fridge to keep the temps at 5degC, plus/minus a degree!

The "a certain size/age to hibernate" thing is a total myth. Hatchlings that hatch mid summer can and should safely be hibernated at a few months old (assuming they're a hibernating species, of course) but you really do have to know what you're doing.

They need to be the right weight for their size (no matter how small they are - it is the "in proportion" bit that's important.)

Also it is VITAL that they're healthy and totally parasite-free (unlikely if you buy from a store/dealer).

They should be hibernated with empty stomachs but full bladders, after an appropriate length "wind down" period for their size (where temps are gradually reduced and the tortoise is given a period of fasting, with regular warm soaks to maintain hydration.)

I know it sounds complicated but they really are amazing pets and well worth the effort!

If you have any specific questions, please do ask!

JustcallmeDog Thu 13-Aug-09 22:41:44

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lazydog Thu 13-Aug-09 22:45:16

FAR better than most books you'll find in the library or pet-stores (usually full of bad/outdated info ) is this and it's free

JustcallmeDog Thu 13-Aug-09 22:47:42

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lazydog Thu 13-Aug-09 22:55:43

The best suited to the UK climate (so they can spend the most time outdoors - always preferable) would be (in order) (1)Testudo hermanni boettgeri ("Hermann's"), (2)Testudo (graeca) ibera ("Ibera") and (3)Testudo horsfieldi ("Russian").

Out of those the Russians have the best personalities, I think, but Hermanns look much nicer, imho...

Here's a pic of my 2 hermanni babies ('08 hatchlings):

JustcallmeDog Thu 13-Aug-09 23:04:38

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lazydog Thu 13-Aug-09 23:16:07

Sorry to have put you off a bit (well, for now, anyway wink) but it's actually really good that you considered the possibility that there might be more to keeping them than you first thought. Loads of people don't...especially now that they're becoming more common in pet stores and it's become possible to "impulse buy" them again. So many never make it past their first couple of years...

Great pets? - definitely! Easy? - not if you want them to outlive you, as they should!

bruffin Thu 13-Aug-09 23:19:20

DS got given our tortoise when he was 10 and was probably already 10 years old if not 20, so probably between 50-60 years old now.
Pictures on my profile. She is a mediterranean spur thighed and does dig herself in for hibernation but we always keep her in a box in the garage through the winter.

Their lovely lazydog. Pictures of Joe on my profile.

JustcallmeDog Thu 13-Aug-09 23:22:07

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JustcallmeDog Thu 13-Aug-09 23:25:26

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pointydog Thu 13-Aug-09 23:36:07

Is it illegal to import tortoises now?

I sometimes look after my neighbour's tortoise and, by jingo, it is not low maintenance.

lazydog Fri 14-Aug-09 00:14:40

^If I were to get one is it best to get one in the summer so they can hibernate as normal? One webiste suggests babies shouldn't be allowed to hibernate. So i guess on the basis of that it wouldn't make much difference?^

Many breeders will advise you to hibernate from their first year. After all - what would they do in the wild? It's understandable that a new keeper would be nervous of doing so, though, so overwintering for the first year or even two would be fine... I did it with last years babies because I just wasn't prepared (I haven't got a reliable spare 'fridge at the moment and where we live gets down to -40C, so outdoor hibernation isn't an option, LOL!)

You have to be careful to take a lot of what you read on tortoise sites with a pinch of salt as a lot has been written by dealers who have no clue about proper tortoise care. Their turnover of "stock" is so rapid that they don't get chance to see that their advice would cause long term ill effects...

Hatchlings are usually ready to go Aug onwards. If you want previous years' youngsters, then you can get them anytime. Having them for a good while before hibernation time is a good idea, though, as it gives you chance to fully assess their health.

lazydog Fri 14-Aug-09 00:23:07

"Is it illegal to import tortoises now?"

Sadly not, no...

Many species can still legally be taken from the wild and imported. They generally arrive sick/stressed and infested with parasites.

Others (those classified as CITES App.A) are totally illegal to take from the wild, but dealers get round it by harvesting the gravid adult females and/or their eggs in huge numbers and "captive farming" them overseas, then importing their offspring, falsely described as captive bred.

These "captive farmed" imports suffer the same health issues as the totally wild caught species mentioned above, but with the added problem that the buyer assumes they're buying genuinely captive bred tortoises when in fact they're still contributing to their declining numbers in the wild.

lazydog Fri 14-Aug-09 00:24:26

bruffin - she's beautiful

JustcallmeDog Fri 14-Aug-09 08:26:39

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pointydog Fri 14-Aug-09 10:40:25

That's not goo d news, dog.

JustcallmeDog Fri 14-Aug-09 10:52:41

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pointydog Fri 14-Aug-09 15:00:17

All that captive farming stuff. It's a shame.

JustcallmeDog Fri 14-Aug-09 15:04:16

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