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Hello from Randy and Henri. New to Forum.

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by Randy Micheals, Jun 8, 2019.

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  1. Randy Micheals

    Randy Micheals New Member

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    Hi Everyone,

    My name is Randy, I live in British Columbia, Canada, and I have a Greek Tort named Henri (French Pron). I tell people that he is my butler, but isn't great at bringing my slippers :p. This might be a long one, so thanks for taking the time to read. This is our story.

    I rescued him from a lady who didn't have much knowledge about keeping these animals. He was in a small aquarium tank, and fed only romaine lettuce with no water. He constantly walked against the glass and was, I guessed, pretty unhappy! I decided when I took him that I would give him the best possible care and life if I could. I knew absolutely nothing nothing about tortoises and had never owned a reptile (my brother had a red eared turtle once).

    I set out to find resources and information. At once I knew I needed to be careful as the amount of misinformation and conflicting suggestions out there on these creatures was immediately apparent. Pet Stores, Pet pages, and many meaning-well youtube videos suggested the wrong conditions, diet, and care. This makes me a bit sad, knowing that many pet torts will be fed dog and cat food or left in too cold conditions etc. I checked my sources and chose to cross-reference all the good info I could find. This forum was immensely helpful as were a few other sites that offered care guides etc from experienced breeders, keepers, and reptile specialist veterinarians.

    After some confusion, I ID'd him as a Testudo Graeca, based on his 5 clawed front feet (not a Russian!), blotch vs black stripes on his under-shell (not a Hermans), Golden shell (though not a really a 'Golden Greek', just a southerner?), and 'spurs' on the back of the thighs. As I live in British Columbia, he needs to live inside for most of the year for temperature reasons, but I take him out as often as I can on sunny days.

    I built an L-shaped enclosure approx 3'x6', with the toe of the L 4'x3'. For substrate I used half sand half organic soil (took some time to find some with nothing in it). His feeding area is exclusively flat rocks, placed in a sort of mosaic, on which the food dish rests. The rocks seem to help keep his claw length in check, and he loves a good climb around on them. He has a UVB bulb with reflector dome at approx 12 inches from substrate, with a ceramic heat bulb further down to control the dead zone of the L. Temp under light is approx 95-97, Cold end of enclosure sits at about 75-77.

    He was dehydrated when I got him, and passing small white urate stones. I soaked him daily and soaked his food, spritzed his habitat and poured water into the soil during the day. He eventually began peeing with no urates at all.

    His diet now consists mostly of grasses and weeds, with some flowers and the odd rare treat (piece of melon or half a small strawberry, occasionally a piece of cucumber for hydrate). Up here in British Columbia we are blessed with a pretty good wild diet for these animals (during the spring summer fall at least) and a climate that keeps things green and fresh most of the year. Local wild or grown grasses, weeds, and flowers include Cats grass, Carex, Dandelion (a favorite), Plantains, Clover (another fave), Sow Thistle (young leaves), Pansies, Nasturtiums, Gloxinia, Coreopsis, Honeysuckle, Snapdragons, Strawberry leaves, Hibiscus (he loves these), Marigold, Viola, Hawks Beard etc. I have all these either wild or growing in pots in my garden, so making a salad each day is easy. He has a piece of cuttle bone as well as calcium power I sprinkle on every few days. He has a shallow water dish, though he doesn't drink from it that I can tell, nor does he sit in it. He mostly just runs through it and fouls it up :p.

    I'm currently in the process of building a new enclosure approx 8x4 with a small second level that will also serve as a hide for the first level. I have some spider plant, carex, and air plant to add (hope he doesnt eat them to the ground) in pots sunk in the soil. Painting the wood with non toxic milk paint (cottage green). and changing the substrate to coco coir around the rocky feeding area so no chance of sand getting in food for impaction reasons. After following a good many (sometimes heated) debates on the subject of sand, I feel that play sand and coco coir mix in the burrowing part of the enclosure (opposite the food side) is not a danger, and Henri seems to enjoy it best for digging and burrowing (I tried cypress mulch in that spot and he didn't much like burrowing in it, he even changed his sleeping area because of it). That's simply my opinion and others will feel differently I'm sure.

    One issue that we have is he hates his soaks. I've tried everything (changing to morning, adding baby food, raising the temp, darkening the bin, lowering water level etc) but he still doesn't like them much. He's better than he was but the whole experience has been uncomfortable for both of us. I would think hes drowning, he thinks I'm a jerk and pouts, and both of us are on edge during the soak. He also tries to escape and only succeeds is splashing himself in the face (he sneezes? is that a thing? I think its a sneeze). I know certain members here advocate heavily for soaks and others not so much, but I've come to the conclusion it wont hurt him, might help him, and he doesn't pout for long. We're both getting used to it I hope.

    I will inevitably have many questions going forward, as this is still a big learning experience for me and I worry about Henri getting everything he needs to thrive and live his full lifespan...which at this point could be longer than mine! :eek:. He has a funny and unique personality once I got to know him, is low maintenance (though knowledge of care needs to be high), and has been a joy in my life. He knows my voice and comes running when I come close (I assume because he wants food, rather than my company) :p

    Thanks so much to the conscientious and well-informed members of this forum who have helped myself and Henri along. I'm very happy to be here and will hopefully post some photos soon. If you'd like to know anything about Henri or have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.

    Cheers,
    Randy and Henri
    Cheryl Hills likes this.
  2. dmmj

    dmmj The member formerly known as captain awesome Moderator 10 Year Member!

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    Greetings! & welcome to the forum.
  3. Cheryl Hills

    Cheryl Hills Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to the forum. Well said intro. I hope you and your tort have a very long time together.
  4. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Hi Randy, and welcome!

    Don't worry if Henri doesn't like to sit in the water. He'll get used to it if you keep it up and don't give in to him. Because he's not a baby, he doesn't need daily soaks, but a couple times a week would be ok.

    It's refreshing to read about your research findings. So many people don't bother to give it the good fight like you did. I'm assuming you've seen out Greek tortoise care sheet? In case you haven't, here's a ling to it:


    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/greek-tortoise-care-guide.174622/
  5. Randy Micheals

    Randy Micheals New Member

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    Thanks all! Glad to be here. Thank you for the link Yvonne. Should I be posting any further questions in a different thread as this is an intro one?
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