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

drew54

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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. :)
As a behavioral specialist I agree with everything, but then being born sociopaths. They are more narcissist than anything. Sociopaths feel almost nothing and this is because they lack basic emotional understanding and most of all lack empathy. Anyway, back to your point. I understand completely that many experts, breeders, etc. Would agree that reptiles are the exception to the rule, but I have witnessed very different things as a behaviorist in my many plus years of studying humans and animal behaviour.
 

drew54

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My question is do red foot tortoises like being held by their owners?
Reptiles remind me of teenagers. They are capable of learning and showing some human emotion but they rather be stubborn little sh- you understand.

The more you interact with them the more they get used to it. That doesn't mean they have to like it. If they show signs of distress then limit their handling that day. Study up on bearded dragons. I think torts and beardies have some similar behaviors when it comes to handling.
 

drew54

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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.
Bees communicate with pheromones also like most living things. Communication doesn't have to be sounds or movements it can also be distinguished through different scents (Pheromones). Most mammals communicate with pheromones also. We do, dogs, cats, etc. Spiders creep me out so it's hard for me to study their behavior when I'm constantly paranoid it's going to crawl in mer or something. I would be interested in seeing some short clips of your tarantula behavior. I have studied a lot of things but spiders it's hard lol I know a lot about spiders in general and a little about behaviour but not their personalities or anything.
 

drew54

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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.
Fear and lust are emotional responses. Hunger is a physiological response that can trigger emotional responses. Emotions are learned responses and instinctual responses. All animals display emotion to some degree. And you don't have to be intelligent to feel or display emotions.
 

drew54

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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 agree with you. I find it aggravating when a person stated that reptiles be turtles, tortoises, beardies, or whatever all have distinct personalities then argue they don't have emotional capabilities. I agree 100% that reptiles don't understand the concept of love or hate, but I do believe they can be taught some of these concepts though. Sea turtles are a great example, beardies, even crocodiles show and understand some complex emotional responses and the rules and laws in their hierarchical communities are just fascinating.

In my time studying behavior, human and animal, I've seen a caiman show affection to their young. Most interestingly, I witnessed a caiman show affection to its owner.

On the flip side reptile behaviors can also be very ambiguous at times. It's hard to decipher a language when you don't exactly know it.
 

TammyJ

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My little guy walks up to me and puts his little paw on my foot and looks me straight in the eye. If that isn't love and trust then what is?!
It's good for you to interpret his behaviour as love and trust. It means that you will take really great care of him and love him too!
BUT. Maybe he walks up to you and puts his "little paw" on your foot, and looks you straight in the eye to tell you to get the heck out of his space.:D
 

Cathie G

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It's good for you to interpret his behaviour as love and trust. It means that you will take really great care of him and love him too!
BUT. Maybe he walks up to you and puts his "little paw" on your foot, and looks you straight in the eye to tell you to get the heck out of his space.:D
No it was more like I'm hungry and would rather go eat something good. It's still trust that I would obey him...lol
 

Cathie G

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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 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.
Obviously they've learned that you are trained enough to trust...lol .I like my animals spoiled enough to tell me what they want.when they want it. And if it's reasonable I will give it. However, they are little babies crawling around needing help.
 

TammyJ

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Obviously they've learned that you are trained enough to trust...lol .I like my animals spoiled enough to tell me what they want.when they want it. And if it's reasonable I will give it. However, they are little babies crawling around needing help.
Yeah, sounds like an old boy friend or two of mine....lol!
 

Cathie G

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I agree with you. I find it aggravating when a person stated that reptiles be turtles, tortoises, beardies, or whatever all have distinct personalities then argue they don't have emotional capabilities. I agree 100% that reptiles don't understand the concept of love or hate, but I do believe they can be taught some of these concepts though. Sea turtles are a great example, beardies, even crocodiles show and understand some complex emotional responses and the rules and laws in their hierarchical communities are just fascinating.

In my time studying behavior, human and animal, I've seen a caiman show affection to their young. Most interestingly, I witnessed a caiman show affection to its owner.

On the flip side reptile behaviors can also be very ambiguous at times. It's hard to decipher a language when you don't exactly know it.
Every critter has emotions. Humans are ruled by reason and animals by instincts. Sometimes emotions can rule over all of that and you may get to witness animals just having fun with each other. I've seen it many times.
 

drew54

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Every critter has emotions. Humans are ruled by reason and animals by instincts. Sometimes emotions can rule over all of that and you may get to witness animals just having fun with each other. I've seen it many times.
Technically we are all animals of some sort ruled by both just some more than others.

I think it's about time that I show proof to everyone. Below I have posted rare photos of a tortoise named Filbert spending time with his friends. IMG_0836.jpg IMG_0837.jpg IMG_0866.jpg

Below I have rare photos of a 6 year old turtle named Franklin playing with his friends.
IMG_0838.jpg IMG_0839.jpg

I hope this puts all the current debate to rest once and for all. [emoji16]
 

Cathie G

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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.
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.
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.
amen
 

Cathie G

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Technically we are all animals of some sort ruled by both just some more than others.

I think it's about time that I show proof to everyone. Below I have posted rare photos of a tortoise named Filbert spending time with his friends. View attachment 255678 View attachment 255679 View attachment 255680

Below I have rare photos of a 6 year old turtle named Franklin playing with his friends.
View attachment 255681 View attachment 255682

I hope this puts all the current debate to rest once and for all. [emoji16]
Whatever,so how are you getting some rest? My mom always told me that"if u want peace go to the cemetery"...I think I'd rather debate.
 

Cathie G

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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
I I think if you see that kind of behavior initiated by the animal and keep doing it with them....the animal will understand that you heard them. Keep watching because they might initiate a new fun game too.
 

drew54

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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
Reptiles are capable of seeking comfort and they do in various ways mostly through biological needs. Food, shelter, heat, etc.

The instance of the hippo and the aldabra might be rare occurrence with tortoises but there have been many instances of this in a lot of reptiles. There was a story out many years ago about this guys bearded dragon befriended a mouse. The guy put the mouse in with the lizard thinking it was going to eat it and the lizard never did. Instead the mouse would stick beside the beardie or perched on its head. Their interactions were pretty interesting and the lizard never showed any signs of aggression towards the mouse in any way.

To be honest this behavior reminds me of I believe is the trap door spider. The spider will employee a mouse to lure food to the to the spider and in return the mouse can eat instead of being eaten.

The tortoise and lizard may have in fact made friends with the mammals as many seem to do with their owners or its simply a business relation. They both are very possible, but many would argue that is purely business. Simply because reptiles are territorial and not known to just socialize with other animals or even members of their species that doesn't result in aggression.

You might have also seen the video of the sulcata flipping the other sulcata over on its feet. Although, we don't get to see what happened before hand we can only speculate that the tortoise was either actually helping the other tortoise or it was an act of aggression. We don't really know because we don't have all the details of what happened before and after. I bring this up because many people are quick to assume that it's compassion, but I'm not so quick to think so. Not saying that reptiles aren't capable of compassion, but there isn't any defining evidence of such behavior.

I do believe that any species of animal can be taught a number of things from behaviors to emotions to some degree captive or wild. The problem is finding an effective teaching method tat the animal can learn to understand. Most behaviorists opt for conditioning through positive and negative reinforcement as seen in dogs, dolphins, hyenas, birds, etc.

There was a guy who try to train a sulcata hatchling using conditioning methods to modify and teach behavior. Was he successful? For the most part he was. Behaviour is often more easily modified and taught than teaching emotion and feeling. Now, mind you the behavior he had taught the hatchling wss merely to hit a button to get a reward. If I can find that source again I'll post it on here.

I know this didn't answer your questions with an absolute answer, but hopefully it gives you a better understanding. There is a lot of mixed views on the matter and I feel I have presented what I've learned objectively.

I hope this helps.
 

Cathie G

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As a behavioral specialist I agree with everything, but then being born sociopaths. They are more narcissist than anything. Sociopaths feel almost nothing and this is because they lack basic emotional understanding and most of all lack empathy. Anyway, back to your point. I understand completely that many experts, breeders, etc. Would agree that reptiles are the exception to the rule, but I have witnessed very different things as a behaviorist in my many plus years of studying humans and animal behaviour.
It's no wonder a tortoise is born a sociopath. Their mom burys them in the ground and takes off...no wonder they love almost everyone but another tortoise...
 
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