So, you want a tortoise......

Alaskamike

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So you want a tortoise …… ?

I have friends.

Friends who come over and admire my torts, awed at their unique prehistoric appearance. We sit on the lanai and watch them gobble greens and trot across enclosures; great entertainment and curiosity.

“I want one like that”, they say, expecting me to encourage the acquisition of one of these shelled wonders – 3 of the top 4 behemoths; Leopard, Sulcata or Aldabra. Or they ask about the smaller species; red foots, Boxies, Russians and Greeks We talk about pets of youth, wild ones nursed back to health and those that didn’t make it, red-eared–sliders, our favorite dogs, exotic reptiles -odd oddities. It’s fun and wistful.

Often they are taken back when I am less than enthusiastic. When I frown and discourage.

“But.. but… YOU have them”, they protest.

And “ Yes…” I say “but…….”

And without trying to be a butt, I tell them….

“Please think about these things before you take that cute little shelled creature home”
  1. Tortoises’ are reptiles. Seems obvious, but, reptiles are cold blooded creatures. They are not mammals like cats or dogs – not similar to us. Heat, sunlight, humidity are not just nice to have , they are vital to their survival – they do not internally self-regulate like we do. Their bodies take on the heat (or cold ) of the environment. So they require….
  2. Specific climate control. And this is not the floor of your kitchen or breezway.
  3. They may be slow (except when you turn your back on them in a yard! ), but they need to roam. More space is needed than you dream, even for the smaller species. Despite the cramming in fish tanks or small tables in pet stores, they will not survive this treatment for long. Even a small baby needs space to explore. And what about when they are older? Can you provide a climate controlled 4’X8’ tortoise enclosure? Where would you put it?
  4. The cost and effort to create a healthy environment for a tortoise far outweighs the cost of acquisition. This is point bank blunt – do you have the $ to do this? If not the money, then the building skills? Both? Because you really cannot easily buy the ready-made right thing.
  5. It takes EDUCATION to do this in a reasonable way. Are you willing to read, study, experiment, ask questions and tweak care till you get it right? Or do you just wanna get a pet and hope for the best. Makes a difference what kind of person you are and what you are willing or able to invest of your own time.
  6. These are long lived animals; a hundred to two- hundred years (I’m not kidding!). I’m not one who thinks in terms of ‘forever homes’, however, what are you gonna do when you can’t care for the tort any longer? Do you have a plan?
  7. The large breeds are interesting – yes, but need large space. Look… you cannot raise an Aldabra or Sulcata in an Apartment. Not more than few years. One day , and very soon, you will need a house – with a large backyard; and not get freaked out ‘cause they dig up your petunias, trample the grass, wear a path along the fence, poop like a horse, knock down gates. Or… you will HAVE to re-home him / her. No alternative and Do NOT think a zoo will take them - they have all they want.
  8. Feeding them takes effort and knowledge. Wallmart does not have what they need next to the Alpo. Store bought greens are a supplement – not a diet. Can you grow your own tortoise garden, pick weeds for them, provide the variety and nutrient they need for those prehistoric growing shells?
  9. These are solitary animals. They will not be your dog’s friend. They don’t want to cuddle with you on the couch.
  10. They are vulnerable despite the armored shell. Can you protect them from becoming a chew toy? From your children dropping them? From the raccoons that roam the neighborhoods at night? From digging out of their enclosures, tunneling under the fence?
  11. When they are sick your local vet may have limited knowledge of how to help. Can you afford a Specialist? What would you do?
If you can answer these questions to your own satisfaction, then by all means adopt a tortoise. They will open a world of interest, curiosity, and fun to you that only they can.
If not… well…

I don’t want to be a butt….. but……

“Alaska” Mike
 

Tom

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We are very much on the same page here my friend.

You can't imagine the look of disappointment and disgust on my face when someone receives a whole lot of good advice and responds with, "Oh, I can't afford that right now..." or "Oh, I don't have that much space right now..." There is what I wanna say to that, and then there is what I actually say on a family friendly public forum. I feel so sad for the tortoises that end up with people like this. My hope is that they will eventually see the error of their ways and start doing a better job over time. I try to show them lots of examples of cheap easy ways to do it right for the tortoise.

Good thread, man. This one will get linked often, suspect I do. {Yoda voice here...}
 

Ciri

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I wholeheartedly agree. Well said, Mike. I have talked to many people out of getting a turtle or tortoise. Some have been just sure that they would really enjoy a hatchling, but really weren't cut out for what it would take to raise them. So I dig up and get rid of eggs right after there laid, rather than risk a population explosion. I've had to explain to people that it's just like a chicken egg on the inside when it's freshly laid. Still, some people have given me a hard time about getting rid of the eggs.

You're right – they really can't imagine how much you have to sacrifice. When I lived in a small casita, if I had a sick animal who had to be kept indoors, or if weather didn't permit them to be outside, they had to be in the living room/dining room/kitchen area. I had to finish washing my dishes before it was time for their lights to be turned out, and I couldn't watch TV or have any lights on in that part of the casita. And if I forgot and left something I really needed in the area where they were sleeping, I had to try to tiptoe in and not wake them up. They have to come first.
 

stinax182

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It really bothers me seeing so many tortoises being treated like lap dogs. Your tortoise does not like to watch tv with you or cuddle. To take him out and hold him for a bit is one thing, us humans like to show love through contact, but to imply the reason he's under the blankets as 'he likes to cuddle' when it's really 'he has no idea what is happening and feels safer hiding.' Is silly. You don't watch tv with fish because they need water.... Well tortoises need applied heat, not your body warmth, and they need to not be stressed, which is in an enclosure they're familiar with.

Also, i hate how some people hold tortoises.... WHY U HOLD HIM STRAIGHT UP?

That is all :D
 

booshsmummy

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Only my second post but I just wanted to say WELL SAID!

I fully admit that I don't know everything about tortoises. I posted about it in my introduction thread but here is my story-

My brother bought Boosh on a whim thinking he's cute and he would be fun. He said he had spoken to a vet who says he doesn't need a light all he needs is a box and a heated mat and he would be fine. Feed him anything that's green and there's nothing else he needed to know. He made no effort to find out anything else. So for the time he had Boosh he fed him on just grapes, cauliflower and nothing else. When questioned about why he didn't have the right set up, lights, substrate etc he said he couldn't afford it and that he's doing OK so why bother? He had a small box (the kind for under bed storage) and sawdust and hay (cheap hay from a pound shop, looked very dusty).

He then eventually got sick of him, realised he wasn't as "fun" as a dog, he couldn't cuddle him, he probably did cost too much. He called me and said I either took him on or he would "get rid of him". So we gave him a home. I had always said I wanted a tortoise but never actually had any plans to get one because I know they take a lot of care. But we took him on and I have spent the last few months absolutely dedicating myself to doing everything I can for him and making sure he has the home here that he needs. The day after he came to live with us I bought him the correct size tortoise table (and found him a bigger drawer as a temporary home), bought the correct lights, binned the heat mat (urgh) and read everything I could. I took him to the vet as soon as I could. I trawled the internet for someone who specialises in tortoises. He was not cheap but totally worth it. I can definitely afford everything he will need and I'm making so much effort to learn all that I can so that Boosh lives a happy and healthy life. His vet told me he's very pleased and that he's very healthy considering he had a pretty poor start.

My brother is just an example of someone who took a tortoise on with no thought and no consideration for how long he will live and how much he needs. He seemed fun at the time, he didn't care that he needed a lot of other things. I am sure there are many other people like him who just think they look fun so why not get one. I have had a few people say to me that they want one after seeing Boosh and I have said similar things to the OP- PLEASE consider everything before getting one. I absolutely love Boosh and couldn't be without him but there is a lot to know!
 

Grandpa Turtle 144

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Thank you for telling your story but the real problem is those people grow up to do the same thing with their children . And to ME haveing and careing for a tort is a lot like caring for children . It's just a shame that the torts have to pay the price . But if your tort could say thank you it would . Have a great tort day !
 

booshsmummy

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Oh this has happened with my brother's children too (social services have had to step in recently but that's a story for another day!) It's such a shame that people don't think before having children and pets.
 

Mavrik

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Very, very well said sir.

It does not help either, that oftentimes people go to pet stores thinking that they will be getting top-notch amount of knowledge from the people working, only to be fed nonsense and sometimes outright lies about tortoises and tortoise care.

I was one of those "experts", trained with what I thought was the best knowledge about tortoises from one of the best pet store companies in the US. Imagine my surprise then, when I took it upon myself to do my own research on these majestic creatures, only to find out that everything I had previously was downright wrong and sometimes even hazardous to their health.

I now raise my own tortoises to the best of my ability, using knowledge gained from perusing forums such as this from people such as yourself. Keep up the good work all of you, from a newbie.
 

kathyth

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Thank you for this outline regarding ownership.
If I knew how to stickie it to my posts I would.
Don't know how :(
Thank you!!
 
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Tidgy's Dad

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I rescued Tidgy and am doing my best for her and following as much advice as I can I'm learning all the time and have been since day 1.
I have to actually go to another continent in order to get some of the essentials to make Tidgy's life as good as it can possibly be. And she is worth every penny of my transportation, purchasing and electricity costs. At least I have a fairly natural temperature and humidity for her as she is in her home country and it is easy, at least in spring and early summer to get the naturally growing foods that are best for her.
But once a neighbour who had seen how happy and beautiful my girl is bought a tort for their child to play with (he is only 2) and despite them asking for some help and my occasional intervention, the poor thing was dead in a month. I have dissuaded others but am still feeling somewhat guilty. I can spend the time and money, but most Moroccans cannot. The mortality rate here in captivity is horrendous as far as I can see. Also in the wild of course. Very sad, but I know my girl has had at least three years of happy living that she wouldn't have done if I hadn't saved her from a place her sister died a week later and hopefully will outlive me.
 

iota

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Have gone through all of this in the past two weeks, this is well put. My decision was not a whim. This is something I have wanted since I was about 10 years old. Through the whole process, for me lighting was the most difficult thing to supply.

I love to garden, and I have a huge one that has plenty of appropriate choices for my redfoot. Though I am little confused about strawberries. I haven't found a list that says just strawberries. They are usually very specific on types of strawberries.

I have a father that is an amazing carpenter, so the table as the easy part. He got really excited when i called him to ask him if he would help me haul wood, and had a plan drawn up before I got of the phone with him. I have an AMAZING green house less than a mile away so finding things to plant in the indoor enclosure and to act as substrate were not difficult either.

I will say to date including the turtle I've spent close to $500. I'm still looking at a getting a reptile mister to help control humidity a little better. I've not even started working on our outdoor enclosure. It is still a little too cold here. However, Pittsburgh is nice and disgustingly humid during the warm months!
 

Tidgy's Dad

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Good for you Iota, you seem to have the right attitude and are caring and learning.
I think strawberries are fine, but only as a treat occasionally. You are right, humidity is very important.
Role on summer, your turtle will love the sunshine and it's good for them too.
 

DWB

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Yeah, what they said.

But I'm livin' the dream.

PS, You forgot to mention the whole "Vacation" thing.
 
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