Mixing species

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Yvonne G

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Zoos are often wrong in the way they take care of their animals, but bear in mind that they have vets on site to handle any problems that occur.
 

itiswhatitis

Active Member
I see it like this. In some cases this might be ok. But comparing your backyard and the wild are so different. Correct in wild they will overlap. But the wild is the wild. A lot space to get out of the way and go as far as one may please when sick of the others crap lol. A backyard and enclosure a species can only go so far. They are forced to deal with the stress if they are stressing. But again as with people or animal I think it's possible for any individual personality to get along with each other. They will either get along or they won't. But there's a difference in being forced to in backyard or given the choice to leave in the wild.

It's like being stuck in car with someone you can't stand for 3 hours ready to pull your hair out or saying you suck I'll take my own car.
 

Tom

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I think in some cases you should not mix them. But some species by chance would overlap in the wild anyways. So in my opinion it is not cut and dry. I have 2 small aldabras that have 0 contact with the Leopards or Sulcatas. Those 2 would never meet in the wild. Seems a lot of people are against it in every case. But life is not black and white.

Sulcatas and leopards do not overlap in the wild, and those two species are behaviorally very incompatible. Diet is different too, in that sulcatas will need a lot more grass and grass hay as adults.
 

Crzt4torts

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I'm pretty sure the philly zoo keeps Galapagos and Aldabra together
You are correct, the Phili zoo has them together. They are gorgeous! They are usually scattered about their habitat when outdoors, keeping to themselves. Indoors during winter they are more frequently next to someone else. They actually have a roller railway they can roll them inside on.( one of my sons attends college close to the zoo, so when I visit it is a typical stop for us)
 

tglazie

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Okay, so I've never seen a picture of a wild sulcata and a wild leopard walking together. Not to sound like a smart ***, but I've read enough reptile garbage attempting to pass itself off as fact that I've grown rather skeptical over the years, and just because the range map of two different animals appears to show overlap doesn't make it so. Also, to the painted turtle/red ear point, I've never seen these animals coexisting either. Sure, maybe it's true that red ears now live within the range of all four subspecies of painted turtle, but this isn't the natural way of things by any means. Red ears basically lived in the watersheds between the lower Rio Grande and the Mississippi. They are not natural residents of Connecticut, Ohio, or California, all places where they were released and are reeking havoc on the native turtle populations. The only painted turtle that shares range with the red ear is the southern painted turtle, and I wouldn't recommend mixing those two types given the enormous size differences that ultimately result.

Sure, some species ranges overlap, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they occupy the same niche in the same habitat, which is basically what you're asking them to do in most captive situations. In the waterways near my home in South Texas, there are released Yellowbellies, released painted turtles, released Louisiana red ears, Texas cooters, Rio Grande red ears, Rio Grande softshells, common snappers, and yellow mud turtles. I often see multiple species basking on the same log. But I wouldn't dream of keeping any of these together. Is it natural for snappers and cooters to share the same waterway? Sure, it often is. But it is also natural for snappers to prey upon anything that moves. There's a reason baby turtles relegate themselves to the overgrown reeds of the shallows. Disease is also an entirely natural phenomenon, and pathogens pass between different species sharing an environment all the time.

First things first. I'm a solitary tortoise/turtle kind of person. The only chelonians I keep in groups are hatchlings and juveniles. As soon as I see the slightest tendency toward aggression (passive aggressive dominant animals using intimidation tactics, outright mounting or biting, or a change in behavior by submissive animals), I start separation. Since starting this practice back in the late nineties, I haven't had a single outbreak of disease in my colony, which I couldn't say when I was keeping my largest marginated male with the other females. I was constantly having girls catching respiratory infections, suffering bites and wounds that I would attempt to quell via temporary separation. Since I've made every tortoise master of his or her domain, presented to other members of his/her respective species for very limited contact for breeding/combat purposes, I've had no problems. Single species groups/single animal keeping strategies are infinitely easier to maintain, from a behavioral and health management perspective. So yeah, as someone who has been keeping tortoises for three decades now, I say make things easier on yourself, don't mix the species.

T.G.
 

tglazie

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I've also never understood the appeal of keeping different species together. I mean, is it a space issue? A cost issue when it comes to building a new enclosure for the animal? I've always considered it a rule of thumb that if you have more than one tortoise, you have to allot for the need for more than one enclosure. And that is what I've done for the past sixteen years. Also, sorry for the terse language earlier.

T.G.
 
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BrianWI

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The whole thread illustrates one point: the hard "one turtle/ tort per enclosure" rule isn't always correct. There are species and situations that work outside that rule. The same with "no mixing species". There are exceptions. But it takes a lot of pre-planning and careful execution.
 

MichaelaW

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Harlingen, TX
Okay, so I've never seen a picture of a wild sulcata and a wild leopard walking together. Not to sound like a smart ***, but I've read enough reptile garbage attempting to pass itself off as fact that I've grown rather skeptical over the years, and just because the range map of two different animals appears to show overlap doesn't make it so. Also, to the painted turtle/red ear point, I've never seen these animals coexisting either. Sure, maybe it's true that red ears now live within the range of all four subspecies of painted turtle, but this isn't the natural way of things by any means. Red ears basically lived in the watersheds between the lower Rio Grande and the Mississippi. They are not natural residents of Connecticut, Ohio, or California, all places where they were released and are reeking havoc on the native turtle populations. The only painted turtle that shares range with the red ear is the southern painted turtle, and I wouldn't recommend mixing those two types given the enormous size differences that ultimately result.

Sure, some species ranges overlap, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they occupy the same niche in the same habitat, which is basically what you're asking them to do in most captive situations. In the waterways near my home in South Texas, there are released Yellowbellies, released painted turtles, released Louisiana red ears, Texas cooters, Rio Grande red ears, Rio Grande softshells, common snappers, and yellow mud turtles. I often see multiple species basking on the same log. But I wouldn't dream of keeping any of these together. Is it natural for snappers and cooters to share the same waterway? Sure, it often is. But it is also natural for snappers to prey upon anything that moves. There's a reason baby turtles relegate themselves to the overgrown reeds of the shallows. Disease is also an entirely natural phenomenon, and pathogens pass between different species sharing an environment all the time.

First things first. I'm a solitary tortoise/turtle kind of person. The only chelonians I keep in groups are hatchlings and juveniles. As soon as I see the slightest tendency toward aggression (passive aggressive dominant animals using intimidation tactics, outright mounting or biting, or a change in behavior by submissive animals), I start separation. Since starting this practice back in the late nineties, I haven't had a single outbreak of disease in my colony, which I couldn't say when I was keeping my largest marginated male with the other females. I was constantly having girls catching respiratory infections, suffering bites and wounds that I would attempt to quell via temporary separation. Since I've made every tortoise master of his or her domain, presented to other members of his/her respective species for very limited contact for breeding/combat purposes, I've had no problems. Single species groups/single animal keeping strategies are infinitely easier to maintain, from a behavioral and health management perspective. So yeah, as someone who has been keeping tortoises for three decades now, I say make things easier on yourself, don't mix the species.

T.G.
Well said.
 

tglazie

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The whole thread illustrates one point: the hard "one turtle/ tort per enclosure" rule isn't always correct. There are species and situations that work outside that rule. The same with "no mixing species". There are exceptions. But it takes a lot of pre-planning and careful execution.

I don't think this thread illustrates that point at all. One turtle/tortoise per enclosure is always the safest option, which to my mind makes it always correct. With all other aspects of care addressed, it's the one tactic a person can exercise and never go wrong. The alternative offers plenty of possibilities for things to go wrong, even if everything else is absolutely perfect. I kept Big Gino and his two lady friends in a seventy five foot by seventy five foot enclosure, with hills, six shelters, six watering holes kept fresh by drip system, and a bunch of overgrown areas filled with graze, and he was the only tortoise doing well. The others hid all the time, were always stressed, and always ate half as much as he did. I was always temporarily separating him, especially in late spring when his aggression levels would just skyrocket into a state of constant harassment. He was transforming those ladies' lives into a living nightmare. Once I separated him and then separated each of the ladies to their own respective enclosures, once I redesigned my entire layout, all of my animals put on weight, every one of them stopped hiding as much as before.

A tortoise by itself will not be the victim of bullying and physical trauma, disease transmission by other tortoises, or cross species impregnation by another species of tortoise. A tortoise by itself is healthier in every way when compared to an animal kept in a group with others, where there will always be winners and losers. I'm a busy man. Unlike some, I can't be around my tortoises twenty four seven to ensure that they don't bully each other. I introduce the animals periodically for supervised interactions to ensure that they can engage in combat and other social rituals that assure they aren't bored, but when I compare the state of my animals from when I kept them together versus when I kept them apart, I can tell you from my years of experience that keeping these animals apart was the best decision I ever made.

Sure, you can argue that keeping animals in groups or that mixing species isn't always a completely misguided idea and that with careful planning, round the clock supervision, and a watchful eye over group dynamics, it is doable. But I just don't understand why, when the alternative is so much safer and easier. I mean, I like watching my margies hang out in a group, sure, but if I want to see that, I move them all to the big grazing area, pull up a chair, and keep an eye on them, playing referee to any fights that may occur. I then move them back to their respective large, planted enclosures where they can return to their own shelters, secure in the safety of their own dens. This makes things so much easier. Feeding is also infinitely easier this way, given that I can ensure Big Gino and Little Gino don't hog all the cactus and hibiscus flowers, which they would do when I kept them with their respective harems. Those two are giant jerks, and it is better for everyone that their giant jerkness is unleashed only on a limited basis under the supervision of a watchful protector.

T.G.
 

tglazie

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Apologies, I'm not trying to be as big a jerk as my boy Big Gino, but I just feel very strongly about this, that anyone new to tortoise keeping understand that keeping tortoises and learning the ropes when it comes to knowing your tortoise's individual needs is a very long and challenging learning process. As advanced keepers, those of us with a wealth of experience should be completely honest with keepers new to the hobby. And I am being completely honest when I say that mixing of species and keeping of groups has never worked for me. Everyone I've known who has mixed species of tortoise has had their situation result in losses that can be directly attributed to the practice of mixing. My uncle had a leopard tortoise he allowed to live in the same enclosure as a group of juvenile sulcatas. She passed a respiratory illness, for which she was showing no symptoms, that quickly spread to the rest of them, dropping every one of those poor kids into an early grave. The vet determined her to be a passive carrier, said she should live in isolation. Another friend of mine who kept redfoots and sulcatas decided he was going to start a colony of Russians. One day, two of his largest females contracted some spinal wasting disease that left their hind legs immobile. Both girls died. The vet said he had no idea how to treat this disease, but that it seemed to affect tortoises held in large collections. I had this same disease strike my then twelve year old sulcata Jerry (God rest him), and he died a short time later. This was at the time that I decided to give up a number of my adopted animals, get out of the informal fostering role, and focus on marginated tortoises. Maintaining all margies and one ibera Greek is so much simpler.

I know a number of experienced keepers who managed to assemble same species groups that have managed to establish a pecking order on a large enough piece of property. I'm glad this worked for them, but this has never worked for me, and my misfortune in this regard must be considered as a real possibility.

T.G.
 

BrianWI

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Wow, despite that long post, my boxies are a very harmonious group and I have had mix species water turtle ponds that were equally successful. I'll assume I am just a better keeper ;)

I like seeing the large groups of redfoots on here. They always look good to me. Wish I could maintain a herd of them here.

Or aldabras.
 

tglazie

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Well, you know what they say about making assumptions, but I already made the mistake of using that terse term in a previous post, and I promised to mind my manners. And good for you on your success with your projects. But surely you can see that this won't work for everyone and that keeping a solitary turtle/tortoise is never "incorrect."

T.G.
 

tglazie

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San Antonio, TX
Also, Brian, does your colony produce a lot of hybrids? Do you keep just eastern and three toes together, or do you throw Floridas, gulf coasts, deserts, and ornates into the mix? What are your thoughts on the preservation of species specific or sub-specific traits?

T.G.
 
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Arlenetorturtle

New Member
Lots of mixed feelings here, I think it is best to keep apart, however not always possible, best advice, proceed with caution, can seriously injur tortoises if any are put together, same breed and mixed. They should all be loners. I've had to break up many fights and put in time out!!
 

Arlenetorturtle

New Member
Let's just start with eastern box turtles and three toed boxies. Will they not thrive together? Would you not keep a red eared slider with a painted turtle? When rules are absolute, they are usually wrong.
I keep 3 toe box turtles with Ornate box turtles and they actually only associate with their own kind, kinda funny, they are prejudice!! They have been together for about 8 years!
 

Tom

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Okay, so I've never seen a picture of a wild sulcata and a wild leopard walking together. Not to sound like a smart ***, but I've read enough reptile garbage attempting to pass itself off as fact that I've grown rather skeptical over the years, and just because the range map of two different animals appears to show overlap doesn't make it so. Also, to the painted turtle/red ear point, I've never seen these animals coexisting either. Sure, maybe it's true that red ears now live within the range of all four subspecies of painted turtle, but this isn't the natural way of things by any means. Red ears basically lived in the watersheds between the lower Rio Grande and the Mississippi. They are not natural residents of Connecticut, Ohio, or California, all places where they were released and are reeking havoc on the native turtle populations. The only painted turtle that shares range with the red ear is the southern painted turtle, and I wouldn't recommend mixing those two types given the enormous size differences that ultimately result.

Sure, some species ranges overlap, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they occupy the same niche in the same habitat, which is basically what you're asking them to do in most captive situations. In the waterways near my home in South Texas, there are released Yellowbellies, released painted turtles, released Louisiana red ears, Texas cooters, Rio Grande red ears, Rio Grande softshells, common snappers, and yellow mud turtles. I often see multiple species basking on the same log. But I wouldn't dream of keeping any of these together. Is it natural for snappers and cooters to share the same waterway? Sure, it often is. But it is also natural for snappers to prey upon anything that moves. There's a reason baby turtles relegate themselves to the overgrown reeds of the shallows. Disease is also an entirely natural phenomenon, and pathogens pass between different species sharing an environment all the time.

First things first. I'm a solitary tortoise/turtle kind of person. The only chelonians I keep in groups are hatchlings and juveniles. As soon as I see the slightest tendency toward aggression (passive aggressive dominant animals using intimidation tactics, outright mounting or biting, or a change in behavior by submissive animals), I start separation. Since starting this practice back in the late nineties, I haven't had a single outbreak of disease in my colony, which I couldn't say when I was keeping my largest marginated male with the other females. I was constantly having girls catching respiratory infections, suffering bites and wounds that I would attempt to quell via temporary separation. Since I've made every tortoise master of his or her domain, presented to other members of his/her respective species for very limited contact for breeding/combat purposes, I've had no problems. Single species groups/single animal keeping strategies are infinitely easier to maintain, from a behavioral and health management perspective. So yeah, as someone who has been keeping tortoises for three decades now, I say make things easier on yourself, don't mix the species.

T.G.

I have been having this argument for soooooo many years. We've shared some of the same experiences, but you elaborated upon them so much better than I've been able to. I've always maintained that those people who mix species and say they have not had a problem, either have had a problem and either didn't realize it, or blamed it on something else, or they just haven't had a problem yet.

I completely agree with your assessment of the sum of this discussion: Housing them individually is the safest and simplest way to go about it. Housing them in groups is a larger risk any way you look at it. Mixing species simply increases this risk.

Thank you for taking the time. I hope all reading this have gained some knowledge from you sharing your experiences.
 

tglazie

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San Antonio, TX
Thank you, Tom, very kind words. Indeed, I've often felt like a broken record on this particular subject. Always good to know another, so that we may repeat the wisdom gained from years of experience, scratchy as a cat post. Interestingly, I just got done conversing with someone who purchased one of my yearling margies. Turns out, her other yearling that she acquired as a hatchling came down with a respiratory illness, and she was wondering if any of my animals had a history of such. When I asked her about the setup, she said that she had been keeping the two tortoises in the same eight by ten outdoor enclosure. I asked how long she had been keeping them as a pair and if she noticed any change in behavior in either animal, to which she responded, unsurprisingly, that she did, that her established animal started shying away from the newcomer since the introduction two months ago after a two week quarantine period, that she began eating less and hiding more. It was then I had to break it to her, the "pairs create conflict" talk. She says she will separate them, that the vet has her first animal on a course of baytril injections. She's kicking herself, given that this could have most likely all been avoided with less than a hundred dollars in construction materials and one afternoon's work. Now, time will tell if this separation will result in the established animal recovering and resuming it's original state, and we may never know if the tortoise became ill due to the stress of a competitor or the rainy weather that happened upon my region these past weeks (certainly a combination of both, I'd suspect), but to my mind, there is a strong possibility that the introduction of an invader played a role in the established tortoise's illness, that the risk of keeping these two tortoises in the same pen was a risk I would deem unacceptable.

I don't know, I guess I got a lot of practice at these arguments while posing them against my old man and uncle, two of the most stubborn men you'd ever meet. My old man grew up in California keeping various American tortoises, Deserts of various types and Texas tortoises. At one point he had three animals. Made all the classic mistakes, painting the shells, never securing the fencing, lots of escapes. Luckily his suburban yard grew plenty of natural graze, given all the iceberg lettuce he fed those poor beasts.

When I approached tortoise keeping as a seven year old kid, I didn't have any tortoises at all, but I wanted to learn everything, especially after seeing them in the zoo and hearing all of my old man's stories about them. When I was nine, we were stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, which was surrounded by scrub lands that were, at the time, prime ibera habitat. When we got back stateside, I was dead set on getting one as a pet. I spent three years collecting books filled with misinformation that often contradicted itself. It wasn't until 1995, when I was 12, going on 13, that I picked up Brian Pursall's Mediterranean Tortoises. That book has a lot of bad information in it as well, but it was the first book I had ever read that had any actual good information in it. After that, I was all about natural graze and outdoor keeping, despite my old man's objections.

Ultimately, my old man got back into tortoise keeping in a big way after he saw that I could keep Graecus, my oldest, alive for all those years. Only problem was that his and my care philosophies always had serious differences, so we butted heads constantly. He often picked up tortoises from petshops on impulse, and as a kid who loved tortoises, it was hard to see this as a problem, until I started arguing that the new animal had to be set up in it's own enclosure and that mad man Graecus didn't need anymore "friends" to beat into submission. One of the big issues of contention was the keeping of different species together. In my attempts to avoid turning this post into a novel, let's just say I not only convinced my old man, but also my uncle (though this was, unfortunately, after some unfortunate incidences, which I've outlined here and on various other posts). Now, my uncle's redfoots, leopards, and sulcatas are all living in single species groups. I've yet to convince him to keep his beasts individually, but hey, this is tortoise keeping. Time is what it's all about, and given enough of it, everyone finds the opportunity to look over their routine with a fresh set of eyes and make a few changes.

T.G.
 

BrianWI

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Also, Brian, does your colony produce a lot of hybrids? Do you keep just eastern and three toes together, or do you throw Floridas, gulf coasts, deserts, and ornates into the mix? What are your thoughts on the preservation of species specific or sub-specific traits?

T.G.
Preservation? Do you think your pet hobby is preservation? It is not. And no, I have ZERO problems with hybrids. And your argument about adding non-compatible species is really lame.
 
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