Galapagos Study


Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Nov 18, 2011
Location (City and/or State)
Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
Dear Galapagos Tortoise Owner,
There are numerous Galapagos Tortoises afflicted with swellings in the neck and edema in the United States as well as on the Galapagos Islands. They are in private collections, zoos, and other institutions, all living in different climates and with different husbandry practices, but yet all afflicted with the same condition. There have been numerous hypotheses regarding this condition, biopsies and necropsies have been performed but there has been no consensus as to why this is occurring, what the condition is, or most importantly how to cure it. To date, no public studies have been conducted to confirm any of these hypotheses.
Thanks to a private benefactor who has graciously agreed to fund this study, the root cause of this condition will hopefully be determined. The goal of this much needed study is to determine the cause and resolution of the unexplained swelling(s) and edema of the currently afflicted tortoises and also preventing the condition from occurring in the future. These animals are depending on us!
Please complete the attached “Galapagos Tortoise Study Questionnaire”. This questionnaire covers health and history questions on your tortoise. Your detailed information is very important as this will determine the direction and focal points of the study. Once all questionnaires are compiled this data will be formally presented to several research institutions for their consideration.
As with any study, the more animals that participate, the greater chance of success. Please forward this cover letter as well as the attached accompanying questionnaire to other Galapagos owners whether they are experiencing this condition or not, all data is important and needed.
This medical condition is causing the premature deaths of many animals. Please return your completed questionnaire as soon as possible. Together we can make a difference in the lives of these animals!
I will keep you updated as information becomes available. Feel free to email or call me any time.
Thank you!!!!!
Wendy DeBevoise
[email protected]
602 670-5939


Thank you for your participation in the Galapagos Tortoise Study. This condition afflicts Galapagos Tortoises all over the world, including on the Galapagos Islands.
The more information and details that you can give the better our success will be in discovering not only the root cause of this deadly condition but also a cure! We are not looking for right information, just real data that can be used to determine the focal points of the study. Please know that all of your data, details, specific information and photos will contribute to helping to determine what is causing and hopefully reversing this condition. Your detailed and specific husbandry information could mean the difference between life and death of tortoises in future generations.

We owe it to these animals to solve this health concern. Thank you for your care and commitment to the world’s greatest gentle giants!!

Special Instructions:
Please complete one Questionnaire per animal. In addition, PLEASE include photos of the entire animal and also of the swelling/lump with a ruler or tape measure next to the swelling/lump.


TORTOISE’S NAME____________________________________

1. Hatch Date:
2. Where hatched (breeder, city, state):
3. Current city, state of residence: Length of time in this location?
4. Sex (if known):
5. Current Weight (if available):
6. Straight Carapace Length in inches:
7. How long have you owned or cared for the above animal? Can you forward this questionnaire to any previous owner(s)?
8. Is he/she housed indoors and/or outdoors? How does it vary over the year and what temperature parameters (day and night)? Please be specific, if he/she has access to both please specify the approximate percent of time spent in each location.
9. How many hours of direct sunlight does he/she receive in a day? UV lighting if inside, what type and how many hours?
10. Does he/she have daily access to grazing? Percentage of diet?
11. What type(s) of grass? Percentage of diet?
12. What types of plants and/or weeds does he/she have access to? (Botanically speaking, the genus and species designation is preferred) Percentage of diet?
13. Is hay offered? What type? How much? How often? Percentage of diet?
14. Does he/she have access to drinking water daily? Is the water chlorinated, well water, rain collected, or other?
15. How often is he/she fed supplemental food? Daily, weekly, occasionally, etc. please be specific.
15a. Exactly what types of food are offered? Please be specific and list all foods even if only given occasionally. (Store produce, home grown, etc.)
16. Is he/she fed supplemental vitamins, minerals, proteins etc.? If so, for each type, list brand name, generic name, manufacturer, strength (mg/dosage), and frequency (daily, weekly, etc.)
17. Do you provide heated accommodations during cold, inclement weather? If so, to what temperature is the accommodation heated? What method of heating is used?
18. Did he/she previously share common space with other species? If so, state the name and number of each such species as well as the length of time together.
18a. Is he/she currently sharing common space with other species? If so, state the name and number of each such species, as well as the length of time together.
19. At what age was the swelling/lump first noticed?
19a. What part of the anatomy was the swelling/lump first observed, neck, legs, etc.?
19b. Date of occurrence of swelling/lump, or time of year: (spring, summer, fall, winter)
19c. Has the swelling/lump ever increased or decreased in size? If so, was it a rapid or gradual increase/decrease?
19d. If the swelling/lump decreased, for how long did the swelling/lump remain decreased?
19e. Upon palpation, (touch) does the swelling/lump feel hard, soft, painful or not?
19f. Is the swelling/lump the same temperature as the body?
20. Is edema (puffy, fluid accumulation under the skin) present?
20a. Where is the edema? Neck, legs, etc.
20b. Did the edema occur before or after the swelling/lump was noticed?
20c. Has the edema changed? (increased/decreased)
21. Do you have any past medical records including blood work, pathology reports, or other medical reports that you feel could be important? If so, please attach.
Additional Comments: (Please include any additional information that you feel is important)

Once Again, THANK YOU, for your invaluable and generous contribution to this very important study.
Please email the completed Questionnaire to [email protected]. THANK YOU!!


Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Feb 21, 2010
Ken,,,,who is Wendy DeBevoise?

I have never herd of her..?

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 23, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Actually, the study was forwarded to several recipients from Sharon Paquette (turtlenutz), the president of one of the CTTC chapters. I don't know who the gal is who is doing the study, though.


Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Nov 18, 2011
Location (City and/or State)
Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
Here is what Wendy responded with.

Hi Ken,

I'm sorry in the delay in getting back with you.

I am happy to give you some background info on myself, several people have asked.
I am not working with any organization, I have done this research on my own, with the help of the
Galapagos community of owners and keepers. I am just the keeper of information :) I truly want
to save these amazing animals.

I am a tortoise lover, I have kept tortoises for over 25 years, I purchased my first two Galaps 11 years ago.
I have experience in hatching several different species of tortoises, been a member of several tortoise clubs, I spoke at
the TTPG Conference last November announcing the study. I actively study and research.

Shortly after I purchased my first two Galaps, (sub adult females) they began having lameness in both front and back legs.
Together with the help of my veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Wright (God rest his soul) whose knowledge and experience with Galapagos
tortoises enabled him to solve the condition. When this condition arose, I began reaching out to anyone and everyone that I could
locate that had experience with Galapagos Tortoises. One of the first people that I contacted, and am still in touch with regularly,
is Dr. Joe Flanagan, from the Houston Zoo. In case you don't know Joe, he has probably more experience than any other person
in this country with Galapagos Tortoises. He travels to the Islands several times a year, and is the Charles Darwin Research Station's
go to person for all health concerns. He is a wealth of information and has been so helpful to me over the years. He will be one of the
key people in helping with this study. He is a great guy!!!!

As I began reaching out to owners and keepers, the same issue continually came up, the swelling in the neck of these animals.
This condition is occurring all over the world and eventually leads to the death of the animal. Necropsy and lab results findings
are inconclusive. Even the late Dr. Greg Fleming wrote a paper on several that he biopsied over 10 years ago, the findings then were
also inconclusive. He told me personally that he wasn't sure what was causing the condition. No one to date, has determined what is causing
this. We must come together as keepers and lovers of these animals, they need us and depend on us to provide the very best care for them.
The survival of this species, especially in our country, depends on this discovery. The ones that we have in the US are all we will ever have,
it is our responsibility to save them!

Ken, as you can see I'm passionate about this study and these animals, I hope you have a better understanding of who I am and why I feel it
is so important to gather as many participants for the study. As a Galapagos Tortoise Community I know collectively we can solve this deadly

If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
Thanks for spreading the word about this very important study!!


Wendy has also included a short video of a galop showing this condition. Were I to figure out how to post videos, I'd include it. If you want it, email me and I'll forward it to you.
All of this should help put your mind at ease, but it all still could be a cover for a future collection program from private keepers. Fill out the questions and just leave vague or blank the answers you are uncomfortable with.
Remember, my involvement in this is simply the messenger. I've no personal involvement or gain whatsoever.

Here are some screenshots of referenced video; ImageUploadedByTortForum1394003426.740343.jpg ImageUploadedByTortForum1394003450.207033.jpg ImageUploadedByTortForum1394003496.506999.jpg
Last edited by a moderator:


Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Nov 18, 2011
Location (City and/or State)
Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
Hi Ken,

I am so willing to share, we are all in this together, this is the Galapagos Community Study, all for the tortoises!!!

In hearing from other keepers, I think they have felt that this condition has been caused by something they have done,
they are embarrassed to admit that their tortoise has this condition and feel horrible that they have caused it by some
improper husbandry practice. This way of thinking is understandable because for quite some time the thought was that
this was caused by over feeding. There are so many cases where a group of animals are all housed and fed exactly the
same, and one or two in the group have it and the others do not. Just like people every animal is different, I can eat sugar,
but my son-in-law is diabetic, he can not, his system will react differently than mine to sugar. There is something like
this going on in these animals, to blame this on the keepers is WRONG thinking, the only way this can be solved is by sharing
information and coming together as a community. The Galapagos Community has been a "secret" group, myself included,
that secrecy has not helped our animals! I understand the need for security, we live in a world where people steal animals,
but I do think that those people are very few. I have met some amazing people in the tortoise community that I consider life
long friends, coming together is the only way this can be solved, we need each other and our tortoises need us to put aside
our fears from the past and come together for the betterment of them.

Without studies, human medicine would not be what it is today. Cancer treatments have been significantly improved because
willing people participate in studies. Without research and studies veterinarian medicine would not be where it is today either.
Because the Galapagos community is small in numbers, every animal is very important, the more animals that participate the
greater our success will be.

Thanks again Ken for asking.
Lets work together to solve this condition.


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