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I killed my Leopard. What went wrong?

Discussion in 'Leopard tortoises' started by voodoochild, Nov 15, 2019.

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  1. voodoochild

    voodoochild Active Member 5 Year Member

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    So I got a small Leopard tortoise at the Daytona show in August. This was my first leopard tortoise. I would estimate that it was at least 6 months or so. It was not a fresh hatchling. I had an indoor tub and an outdoor pen. I raised it the same as I did the Radiated tort that I have and redfoot but with a different diet. He never thrived under my care. I kept him mostly outdoors for a couple of months but I began to worry that he wasn't eating enough so I began to keep him in the tub mostly. He was very picky. He would eat romain but seemed to eat around any other greens and mazuri. I soaked it daily. The tub was a "chamber". The humidity was 70 to 90%. The hotspot was 95-100 and the cool end was 85 with a dip to 70-75 at night. about a week before he died I took him to the vet. I gave her a stool sample but there were no parasites found. I would love to have a leopard tortoise but I am afraid I will kill it. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!
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  2. Yvonne G

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

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    I really doubt you did anything wrong. Some tortoises just don't do well with change. I raised Leonard from an egg. He spent his first year in a Vision cage, but then got too big to live with the hatchlings that I rotate in and out of that enclosure, so I set him up outside. He wouldn't eat. So I put him in a tort table in the leopard shed. He wouldn't eat. We spent this whole last summer trying to get that darned tortoise to eat to no avail. I finally brought him back inside and put him back into the Vision cage he was raised in (now empty of hatchlings), and he's eating just fine. I have no words of wisdom for you, and I'm at a loss what I'm going to do with Leonard when he gets too big for this enclosure.

    If you DO decide to get another leopard, be sure to quiz the seller real well and maybe even take notes as to how the tortoise has been housed and fed. Try to duplicate these conditions exactly, even to the orientation of the hiding places, food and water containers. Try to minimize the change from old to new. But hopefully your next leopard won't be so hard to acclimate to his new digs.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2019
  3. ZEROPILOT

    ZEROPILOT Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    I agree.
    A baby that isn't started correctly wont thrive.
    I've seen some questionable things and animals at reptile shows.
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  4. Gijoux

    Gijoux Active Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    I'm so sorry this happened. It sounds like you did everything correctly. Good luck next time.
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  5. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Most people don't start leopard tortoise babies correctly. Most sellers don't house or care for them correctly. When they aren't started correctly it damages their kidneys, but there is no visible evidence of this on the outside. Most of them will live for several weeks or months, but they don't grow. They usually stall at around 50 grams and eventually get soft and die. Nothing can save these babies. Their fate was decided by the breeder that kept them too dry, outside all day, and didn't soak often enough. No amount of good care, vet help, or money can bring them back or save them. Most people buy a baby from one of these sellers because its a little cheaper. Then they spend $1000 on vet bills in a futile effort to save it. Most vets don't even understand what I just explained to you and they treat it for all sorts of misdiagnosed maladies like calcium deficiency, for example.

    Did you have a basking lamp? Radiated and RFs don't need one. Leopards do. This could also be a factor.

    More explanation here:
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/hatchling-failure-syndrome.23493/#post-215031

    By contrast, when starting babies using these methods, 100% of them survive and thrive over the long term:
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-incubate-eggs-and-start-hatchlings.124266/
  6. jeannettep

    jeannettep New Member

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    This is a very helpful thread! I have a leopard tort I received shortly bef Easter. It doesn't seem to be growing. It started to get soft underside so to the vet. She looked at everything I was feeding, calcium, minerals, light, everything. She sounded like posts Tom said. She suggested more outside time, 2x daily soak. It seems to have improved. It has taken a long time. Has only gained 3 grams in abt 4 months. The other one I have seemed fine, until I came home one day a couple weeks ago & found it flipped on it's back 6 inches from the basking spot. I don't know how long it was like that. The humidifier was shooting straight over to where it was. I put it straight to soak. But it sounds just like you have said. Soft underside, discolored, small red/pink vein looking places, eyes not opening. I feel so horrible. Btw Tom, my husband & I appreciate your detailed information on outside housing, we have been working on ours for his torts. We didn't expect winter so early & I'm ready for them to go back outside. Glad it was 70 today!
  7. Gijoux

    Gijoux Active Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    If your Torts are housed together you might want to separate them. Years ago I made the mistake of trying to house two young juveniles together only to find that one of them was too intimidated by the other and I presume the stress was keeping him from gaining weight and growing. Once separated everything went smoothly.
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  8. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member Tortoise Club

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    Babies should be housed 90% inside in a control environment with short time outside in the appropriate temps until about the age of 2 or 3 depending on the species. Time outside to be extended with age and not housed outside more then inside until around age 3 or 7-10 inches.
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  9. lyingcat8

    lyingcat8 New Member

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    Just wanted to say I'm very sorry for your loss! I'm new to tort raising, and hatchlings are so small and precious. I hope that if you do decide to get another that they thrive. ♥
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  10. jeannettep

    jeannettep New Member

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    I think I'm going to try that and see how it goes for a while. You were the 2nd person that thought it would be better even though they seem to be getting along. I have a cam on them, so I've been checking the recordings of the camera more often when I'm not there to watch. I don't see aggressive behavior, but I'm desperate to try anything for my little leopards. Thanks!
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  11. jeannettep

    jeannettep New Member

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    Thanks for this information! I wasn't thrilled with the idea of them being outside. They were safe, but I took my computer work outside to sit with them. I'm glad I decided on a little time outside, but mostly under a controlled environment.
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  12. jeannettep

    jeannettep New Member

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    I'm so sorry! I bought 2 hatchling leopards and 1 died. I even took to the vet. She suspected it had been kept in too dry an environment, I was doing everything right and plenty of soaks a day. She had me increase the soaks to 2-3x a day and said the smaller hatchling had a better outlook to survive. But she is growing very slowly! We did what we could but the larger hatchling did die. I purchased another leopard from a different breeder and every day I'm hanging on that he will pull-thru. He was doing great, then nose-dived we had some oops that did not help its situation. But all we can do is hope and keep trying. From what I've been hearing about from others on the forum and listening to my vet that many breeders are not changing how they are raising them and keeping them too dry and it is very damaging. I like Tom's suggestion to just ask how they have been raised and just hear what they say. I think I'll act ignorant and see what they tell me. But if the ones I have pull thru, I won't get another one. I have been thinking I should have just purchased like you did, one that was older. It certainly would have been less expensive at this point, after everything that has been put into this. But you seemed to run into the same outcome I did. So I'm guessing that if I'm in the market for another one, I'd look on here to find a couple of great recommended breeders or how to find them.
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  13. jso

    jso New Member

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    This is interesting. You're suggesting that some breeders don't start their hatchlings off properly and this damages their kidneys, but the regime you then go on to describe seems more concerned with external factors such as humidity and lack of soaking. Is it this that causes the kidney damage?
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  14. Yvonne G

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

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    Yes, being kept on dry substrate and kept too dry is what damages the kidneys. The lack of soaking and a too dry substrate. It may seem external, but all that humidity and moisture gets inside the tortoise too.
  15. hbranch

    hbranch New Member

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    Hey I have zero advice to offer, only my condolences. I'm sorry for your loss and this struggle. Tortoise heaven or nirvana or reincarnation is probably throwing a festival for his arrival. <3
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  16. jso

    jso New Member

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    How does it get inside them? Surely they’d need to be not drinking for kidney damage to take place? I can’t see how external conditions would get to them to the extent that’s being claimed here?
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  17. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    When I use the phrase "start babies correctly", this includes daily soaks, damp substrate, moderate or high humidity depending on species, correct temps for the species, and a highly varied "natural" diet of weeds, leaves, flowers, succulents and grass when appropriate for the species.

    It is chronic dehydration that damages the kidneys. Chronic dehydration is related to all of the above factors. The typical breeder has a baby set up that is also sometimes called a "beef jerky maker". Dry substrate, no humid hide, weekly soaks if that, low or ultra-low humidity, a hot desiccating bulb which is often red, and they typically feed grocery store lettuce and produce. Some breeders in warm climates leave the babies outside all day. Side-by-side experiments All of these things contribute to a poorly started baby.
  18. jso

    jso New Member

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    Ah. OK. Thanks.
    I can imagine that chronic dehydration (in the sense of not having adequate access to drinkable water) could have long-term consequences for internal organs, especially kidneys...and the wrong diet will have grave consequences for bone density (hence the reference above to them "going soft")
    I'm less convinced of the need for "moderate to high humidity" (depending what that means!) for species that would not normally live on damp substrates or experience high humidity naturally - but I know there's a big debate about that.
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  19. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I'm not sure who I'm talking to here. What is your level of experience raising baby tortoises? If you are someone new to the hobby with limited experience, this is a different conversation than it would be for someone who has decades of experience with multiple species.

    You seem to have the old ideas in your head about tortoise keeping. I'm not sure if you've caught on the the revolution that is underway concerning tortoise care and raising babies. Having a water bowl in an enclosure does not ensure good hydration. There are myriad reasons why a tortoise might not choose to drink from that bowl, and many babies have lost their lives to dehydration with a water bowl sitting right beside them. Further, a source of drinking water does not compensate for overly dry desiccating conditions in the rest of an enclosure.

    There is no debate anymore. Our mistaken ideas about what we think happens in the wild kills a large percentage of the captive hatched babies annually. ALL tortoises experience high humidity as hatchlings. They seek out and shelter in little humid microclimates in the rootballs of plants or in some tortoise species by digging down into the dirt or scraping out a hidey hole in a more humid sheltered area. All babies of all species benefit from daily soaks and damp substrate. All of them benefit from a humid hide. Even our desert tortoises here in the south west. This has been demonstrated thousands of times over the last 10+ years by me and by tortoise keepers all over the entire world.

    The wrong diet can certainly cause calcium issues over the long term, but when these little hatchlings "go soft" its because they are at the end stages of organ failure and close to death.

    The only people still arguing these points are people who choose to ignore mountains of evidence that contradict what they've know for years, and people who have never tried the new methods. Raise a few babies the way that is advocated here and you'll see for yourself. Better still, raise some clutch mates the "old" way (dry) and raise their siblings with daily soaks, damp substrate, and a humid hide, and the difference will be obvious. I've debated what is "natural" and what we think happens in the wild for decades. That is all well and good, but speculation about wild conditions is not a substitute for experiments and cold hard evidence that is literally in front of our faces and in our hands every single day. I know what happens when a desert tortoise is raised in the typical dry conditions, and I know what happens when they are raised in the new way with damp substrate and humidity. I know because I've done both for decades. The difference is undeniable.
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  20. jso

    jso New Member

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    Thanks for your detailed explanations. Much to think about here.

    (I have kept tortoises for over 40 years, now keep various species, and have some experience of breeding and raising (successfully, I think) a few hermanns.
    I do try to keep up to date with the latest research, and the experience of other tortoise keepers. That's why I'm on here.)
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