My tortoise ... hates, loves, unhappy, lonely... some part of it's life.

Mortis_thetortoise

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just because you dont understand their behavior doesnt mean they lack emotion.
i have tarantulas. they have emotion and personality. granted the spiders are incredibly more easy to care for.

people assume both are boring and lack personality and emotion...... i disagree.
once you stop being close minded its easy to understand how they show their emotions.

its like saying bees just fly around and sting and collect pollen. bees talk to each other by wing movements and other body language. another bee can determine if they are unwelcome or in danger. they help each other and communicate with each other to build the hive. they join together and take down an enemy.....

what is a language? its nothing but a combination of tones and sounds people of the same understanding recognize to communicate with others in the community. cant understand a bees wing pattern? that doesn't mean they aren't communicating just because YOU cant understand it. if people are speaking a language you don't understand, does that mean they are not communicating with each other?

tortoises obviously haven't learned to understand and speak english but they still talk and show emotion with body language. its easy to tell if your tortoise is too hot because itll roam around looking for a cooler space. itll tell you its hungry by looking for food and eating. if its pissed off or scared itll be in it shell. if your tortoise wants to get out of its enclosure. it will try. they think. they look at the environment and take into considerations their surroundings. have you ever seen your tortoise stop walking, look around and change direction? that's because they are thinking and are wanting to go that way.

just because their method of communication is different than another human doesn't mean they arent smart or lack emotion.
 

Yvonne G

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I don't think that was the intent of Will's post at all.
 

KevinGG

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just because you dont understand their behavior doesnt mean they lack emotion.
i have tarantulas. they have emotion and personality. granted the spiders are incredibly more easy to care for.

people assume both are boring and lack personality and emotion...... i disagree.
once you stop being close minded its easy to understand how they show their emotions.

its like saying bees just fly around and sting and collect pollen. bees talk to each other by wing movements and other body language. another bee can determine if they are unwelcome or in danger. they help each other and communicate with each other to build the hive. they join together and take down an enemy.....

what is a language? its nothing but a combination of tones and sounds people of the same understanding recognize to communicate with others in the community. cant understand a bees wing pattern? that doesn't mean they aren't communicating just because YOU cant understand it. if people are speaking a language you don't understand, does that mean they are not communicating with each other?

tortoises obviously haven't learned to understand and speak english but they still talk and show emotion with body language. its easy to tell if your tortoise is too hot because itll roam around looking for a cooler space. itll tell you its hungry by looking for food and eating. if its pissed off or scared itll be in it shell. if your tortoise wants to get out of its enclosure. it will try. they think. they look at the environment and take into considerations their surroundings. have you ever seen your tortoise stop walking, look around and change direction? that's because they are thinking and are wanting to go that way.

just because their method of communication is different than another human doesn't mean they arent smart or lack emotion.
I don't think any example you provided shows that turtles are capable of emotion. Nor do I think that Wills post said anything about turtles not being intelligent.
 

Oxalis

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I really enjoyed reading this thread and everyone made some good points. Just out of curiosity, I was wondering how the "relationship" between Owen (the hippo) and Mzee (the Aldabra tortoise) plays in to this idea. Is the "emotional" part of this bond only experienced by Owen while Mzee just tolerates it? Is it possible that Mzee eventually "enjoyed" Owen's company? But how would we humans be able to tell? Furthermore, I've noticed that several Aldabras "like" a neck rub every now and then. Is it possible that they can care about that and actually seek it out from their human keepers? Are these instances just anomalies of the reptile family or am I looking too much into it? This is not my area of expertise but I find it quite interesting, so I figured I'd ask the experts here. :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owen_and_Mzee
 

theguy67

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This is an interesting topic. I believe tortoises may have SOME emotional capabilities, as I have seen my redfoots approach each other and make small grunting noises. The male will also court the females. Head bobbing, following around the enclosure. I wouldn't say the females have no choice in the matter, as I have seen my male bullied by the females before. Its also amazing to see them develop a hierarchy. Very complex for what most people would consider for a tortoise/turtle. However, I think its important to say these social abilities are still very limited compared to that of mammals. I do not think they have a concept of love, or hate, just tolerance and stress.

Many people have emotions invested in their animals, so I don't want to stomp on that. I try to look at the project as a whole, and draw attachment and fulfillment from that, rather than spending my emotional energy on individual tortoises, as it is no reciprocated. I'd say more but can see this becoming a very controversial topic, and hope this thread remains constructive. Compared to other reptile forums, I think TF does a great job and keeping the peace.
 

Oxalis

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This is an interesting topic. I believe tortoises may have SOME emotional capabilities, as I have seen my redfoots approach each other and make small grunting noises. The male will also court the females. Head bobbing, following around the enclosure. I wouldn't say the females have no choice in the matter, as I have seen my male bullied by the females before. Its also amazing to see them develop a hierarchy. Very complex for what most people would consider for a tortoise/turtle. However, I think its important to say these social abilities are still very limited compared to that of mammals. I do not think they have a concept of love, or hate, just tolerance and stress.

Many people have emotions invested in their animals, so I don't want to stomp on that. I try to look at the project as a whole, and draw attachment and fulfillment from that, rather than spending my emotional energy on individual tortoises, as it is no reciprocated. I'd say more but can see this becoming a very controversial topic, and hope this thread remains constructive. Compared to other reptile forums, I think TF does a great job and keeping the peace.
Thanks for your input. :) It is quite difficult to try to think outside the human box of emotional responses when observing a tort's behavior. I love my little Steve so much and he most likely doesn't understand or care about that but it does make me happy, especially when his face "lights up" because his mom brought him some food. :D I guess that will have to do for now.
 

theguy67

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Thanks for your input. :) It is quite difficult to try to think outside the human box of emotional responses when observing a tort's behavior. I love my little Steve so much and he most likely doesn't understand or care about that but it does make me happy, especially when his face "lights up" because his mom brought him some food. :D I guess that will have to do for now.
I do enjoy how curious they become, even if it is just for food. Anytime I dig a hole, they have to dive in and smell around. If I sit down in the enclosure, they come over and see what I am doing. I bring them food, so obviously that is what they are responding to. Fish do the same thing, but I think we are raised in a somewhat black and white manner when it comes to validity of projects or hobbies. The way society views turtles/tortoises is typically low on the grand scheme of animals. Dogs, cats, up top, with livestock in the middle, followed by the less cuddly reptiles, and then the gross stuff (bugs, worms, etc.). This trend also seems to be dependent on how intelligent the animal is.Probably because intelligence provides another dimension for us to interact and relate to the animal (also our society puts very high importance on intelligence). Just like fur allows us to physically interact with them, intelligence allows for social interactions. Generally speaking, keeping a turtle or tortoise may be seen as quite pointless by the public ("What do you really do with it? Watch it walk around?") probably due to them not being seen as "pets" in the sense of a companion animal. I guess what I'm getting at is, we are heavily influenced by society's views, and may feel attacked when someone reminds us how tortoises aren't social, or aren't as intelligent as animal x, y, or z. BUT, I think there are other ways to gain fulfillment from raising tortoises, as most of us already do. By studying diet, general husbandry, and breeding, we are learning about an animal, and thus learning about our world and even ourselves. Most non-reptile/animal people won't understand that, and that's ok. An animal not being as intelligent as another doesn't make them less valuable.

I state the previous, as I use to feel somewhat offended when someone would tell me how dumb tortoises were, and how I needed a cooler pet. I found it difficult to argue the "intelligent" side of the debate (although they are smarter than most give them credit for), but I have since accepted the above points I listed and stopped caring what others think. I've also combined keeping tortoises with gardening so I can continue to branch out in my different areas of interest.
 

Oxalis

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I do enjoy how curious they become, even if it is just for food. Anytime I dig a hole, they have to dive in and smell around. If I sit down in the enclosure, they come over and see what I am doing. I bring them food, so obviously that is what they are responding to. Fish do the same thing, but I think we are raised in a somewhat black and white manner when it comes to validity of projects or hobbies. The way society views turtles/tortoises is typically low on the grand scheme of animals. Dogs, cats, up top, with livestock in the middle, followed by the less cuddly reptiles, and then the gross stuff (bugs, worms, etc.). This trend also seems to be dependent on how intelligent the animal is.Probably because intelligence provides another dimension for us to interact and relate to the animal (also our society puts very high importance on intelligence). Just like fur allows us to physically interact with them, intelligence allows for social interactions. Generally speaking, keeping a turtle or tortoise may be seen as quite pointless by the public ("What do you really do with it? Watch it walk around?") probably due to them not being seen as "pets" in the sense of a companion animal. I guess what I'm getting at is, we are heavily influenced by society's views, and may feel attacked when someone reminds us how tortoises aren't social, or aren't as intelligent as animal x, y, or z. BUT, I think there are other ways to gain fulfillment from raising tortoises, as most of us already do. By studying diet, general husbandry, and breeding, we are learning about an animal, and thus learning about our world and even ourselves. Most non-reptile/animal people won't understand that, and that's ok. An animal not being as intelligent as another doesn't make them less valuable.

I state the previous, as I use to feel somewhat offended when someone would tell me how dumb tortoises were, and how I needed a cooler pet. I found it difficult to argue the "intelligent" side of the debate (although they are smarter than most give them credit for), but I have since accepted the above points I listed and stopped caring what others think. I've also combined keeping tortoises with gardening so I can continue to branch out in my different areas of interest.
Aw, that was a lovely response; thank you for sharing. :) I've noticed that while many of my friends and family can be confused as to why I may choose to keep a tortoise, they almost always enjoy asking questions about him, and they smile or laugh when they see him. He's an active tort and can be entertaining to observe. Steve has really gotten me into gardening too—which I now refer to as "tortoise gardening"—and it has definitely become one of my favorite hobbies. :)
 

Big Charlie

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I do enjoy how curious they become, even if it is just for food. Anytime I dig a hole, they have to dive in and smell around. If I sit down in the enclosure, they come over and see what I am doing. I bring them food, so obviously that is what they are responding to. Fish do the same thing, but I think we are raised in a somewhat black and white manner when it comes to validity of projects or hobbies. The way society views turtles/tortoises is typically low on the grand scheme of animals. Dogs, cats, up top, with livestock in the middle, followed by the less cuddly reptiles, and then the gross stuff (bugs, worms, etc.). This trend also seems to be dependent on how intelligent the animal is.Probably because intelligence provides another dimension for us to interact and relate to the animal (also our society puts very high importance on intelligence). Just like fur allows us to physically interact with them, intelligence allows for social interactions. Generally speaking, keeping a turtle or tortoise may be seen as quite pointless by the public ("What do you really do with it? Watch it walk around?") probably due to them not being seen as "pets" in the sense of a companion animal. I guess what I'm getting at is, we are heavily influenced by society's views, and may feel attacked when someone reminds us how tortoises aren't social, or aren't as intelligent as animal x, y, or z. BUT, I think there are other ways to gain fulfillment from raising tortoises, as most of us already do. By studying diet, general husbandry, and breeding, we are learning about an animal, and thus learning about our world and even ourselves. Most non-reptile/animal people won't understand that, and that's ok. An animal not being as intelligent as another doesn't make them less valuable.

I state the previous, as I use to feel somewhat offended when someone would tell me how dumb tortoises were, and how I needed a cooler pet. I found it difficult to argue the "intelligent" side of the debate (although they are smarter than most give them credit for), but I have since accepted the above points I listed and stopped caring what others think. I've also combined keeping tortoises with gardening so I can continue to branch out in my different areas of interest.
I used to think Charlie was curious too. But now I think it is part of guarding his territory. By getting close to someone, he is doing the same thing he would do if he was trying to intimidate another tortoise who had invaded his space. This is just my theory. I have no way of knowing since he isn't talking. We tend to interpret behavior from a human standpoint so it is difficult to think there are other reasons for behavior than what seems obvious to us. Some years we have feral cats in our yard. Charlie will stay near them. When we have workmen in our yard, he hangs around them, often getting in their way. He is less "curious" about what I'm doing, unless I'm cutting down food. Most of the time, I have to call him to get his attention.

I think tortoises are one of the coolest pets a person can get. They are more challenging than a straight-forward pet like a dog that is easy to understand. I think Charlie is at least as intelligent as guinea pigs, which are cuddly furballs.
 

theguy67

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Aw, that was a lovely response; thank you for sharing. :) I've noticed that while many of my friends and family can be confused as to why I may choose to keep a tortoise, they almost always enjoy asking questions about him, and they smile or laugh when they see him. He's an active tort and can be entertaining to observe. Steve has really gotten me into gardening too—which I now refer to as "tortoise gardening"—and it has definitely become one of my favorite hobbies. :)
I really like how gardening and tortoise keeping go hand-in-hand. It does add some challenge though, as you have to make sure the plants are safe. I currently have 6 types of fruiting plants (blueberries, raspberries, bananas, grapes, figs, pomegranates) in my pen. I wanted it to be a multipurpose area, with the fruit being grown for people. The red-foots get plenty that falls over the course of the harvest season. And guests do enjoy looking at the pen, and observing the animals. I often forget how different they must look for someone who has never seen them before. Also, many are usually surprised to learn how "smart" they can actually be.

I used to think Charlie was curious too. But now I think it is part of guarding his territory. By getting close to someone, he is doing the same thing he would do if he was trying to intimidate another tortoise who had invaded his space. This is just my theory. I have no way of knowing since he isn't talking. We tend to interpret behavior from a human standpoint so it is difficult to think there are other reasons for behavior than what seems obvious to us. Some years we have feral cats in our yard. Charlie will stay near them. When we have workmen in our yard, he hangs around them, often getting in their way. He is less "curious" about what I'm doing, unless I'm cutting down food. Most of the time, I have to call him to get his attention.

I think tortoises are one of the coolest pets a person can get. They are more challenging than a straight-forward pet like a dog that is easy to understand. I think Charlie is at least as intelligent as guinea pigs, which are cuddly furballs.
I suppose curious is the wrong word. My sulcata gets territorial, my redfoots less so. But most of the time when I go in there and they "welcome" me, they are looking for food. I typically bring food with me, so they have been trained to respond to my presence in such a way. Believe me, I typically fall on the "non-intelligent" side of the discussion when it comes to tortoises, and I often try to avoid giving them human characteristics.
 

Kapidolo Farms

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The Hippo Aldabra story is interesting indeed. Hippos are very social, and Aldabras are social to at a minimum that they share retreats from the sun. Aldabras are obligate social tortoises if not pro-active social tortoises. They have to be, at least, at a minimum - social.

With the hippo and tortoise it is difficult to sort out the story as told from what their actual day to day might be. It does seem they prefer each others proximity based on the narratives and images.

Again the point to consider is how these animals treat each other. Hippos are social and Aldabras are social. They do spend much time together as wild free will individuals. Some of the mystery is what is the driver for these behaviors.

In the case of Aldabras for instance. If the first tortoise to secure shade pushed others away, eventually the largest animal would win, and the others survival would likely diminish. Over time there would be fewer animals until each retreat had but one animal. Their survival as a species would be much more vulnerable to exogenous threats. They don't do that. It seems if not by cooperation but simply a slow motion shoving match they have been seen to fill shade/retreats to the maximum number that can fit. They are social out of necessity, at the least.

All that is a far distant thing than someone contemplating their tortoise "hates" them for not offering a steady supply of strawberries.
 

Oxalis

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The Hippo Aldabra story is interesting indeed. Hippos are very social, and Aldabras are social to at a minimum that they share retreats from the sun. Aldabras are obligate social tortoises if not pro-active social tortoises. They have to be, at least, at a minimum - social.

With the hippo and tortoise it is difficult to sort out the story as told from what their actual day to day might be. It does seem they prefer each others proximity based on the narratives and images.

Again the point to consider is how these animals treat each other. Hippos are social and Aldabras are social. They do spend much time together as wild free will individuals. Some of the mystery is what is the driver for these behaviors.

In the case of Aldabras for instance. If the first tortoise to secure shade pushed others away, eventually the largest animal would win, and the others survival would likely diminish. Over time there would be fewer animals until each retreat had but one animal. Their survival as a species would be much more vulnerable to exogenous threats. They don't do that. It seems if not by cooperation but simply a slow motion shoving match they have been seen to fill shade/retreats to the maximum number that can fit. They are social out of necessity, at the least.

All that is a far distant thing than someone contemplating their tortoise "hates" them for not offering a steady supply of strawberries.
Thanks for the "necessity" clarification. I like that explanation. This has been a great thread! :)
 

TammyJ

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We humans have assigned ourselves as the most highly "intelligent" animals on the planet. Emotion seems to be linked to a degree of "intelligence". I don't actually believe that tortoises feel any "emotions". Fear, lust, hunger, defensiveness - these are not emotions, they are needs, requirements for their survival.
 

Cathie G

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Now, i'm not going to suggest my tortoise loves me, or hates mazuri, or ever gets lonely.
But, like all higher animals they do have a certain amount of emotional response.
Dogs, cats and people are all warm blooded mammals and are much more closely related to each other than tortoises are to us, it is not surprising that their emotional responses are more recognizable.
Just because most tortoises are primarily solitary does not mean they are emotionless.
Lots of ramming, and forcing themselves around each other etc. Lots of men (and some women) exhibit very similar behaviour, or it least where I used to hang out in the evenings at weekends. Male-male combat that may occasionally end in bloodshed. Sexual assault and rape occur even within marriage with alarming regularity even today. Some people are sociopaths, which is not normal in our society, but tortoises are natural sociopaths, it is how they are 'programmed', so comparing their behaviour to ours is in itself anthropocentric.
Now, although we should all resist the temptation to be anthropomorphic, there is also the tendency to go in the other direction and think that animals don't feel like us, haven't the same depth of emotion, and aren't capable of this and that response. Although this is true, it doesn't mean that they don't feel to some degree and/or in a different way.
Love is too strong a word, but tortoises will prefer one food to another, one place to the next , like the feel of the sun on their skin, or a head rub, or a shower. These are not just reactions but actual emotional preferences.
They feel fear, pain, and contentment, why not some degree of like and dislike ?
If the enclosure is too small they feel discontent,ie. are not happy.
It may only need the basics to survive, but so do we. But we want more, and I put it to you, M'lud, that so do torts. Their quality of life can be greatly enhanced by varying their diet, giving them objects of interest in their enclosures and , yes, being nice to them, they (or at least some of them) 'like' head rubs and a nice sunny day.
Just because they are solitary creatures does not mean they have no feelings.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please be nice to your tortoises, they may not love you for it, but they will be 'happier.'.
I rest my case. :)
absolutely true and they might hate another tortoise but they love to snuggle in a cat's fur.
 

Cathie G

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As with all tortoises, the answer is that some don't mind being held.

Some hate it, some tolerate it and they're all happiest with 4 feet on the ground.
You don't even wanna know what happens to you if you carry my box turtle in the air. I carry her on a fluffy towel cause she hates to fly.
 

jsheffield

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I guess that I disagree with the op.

I believe tortoises can have, and express, emotions.

Jamie
 

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