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

hdeaver1

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Mar 16, 2014
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I have learned these things over the last year of having a tortoise. I have learned, that I am the kind to go all out and educate myself, I am a builder, I am not a fan of gardening, but I am beginning to do so for the love of my crazy Tort. At least enough to make him happy. Certain family members joke and say he must be the most well-loved, spoiled tortoise ever, but I know I am just making a suitable home for him...or at least I HOPE I am!
 

Gordi

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Working in the vets, it has become known that I keep tortoises and l am constantly reading and researching their needs and diet. Clients often ask and say I would love a tortoise. They are surprised when I say there are many out there needing homes, they think they are rare here in the uk. I explain that the majority that were shipped over by the millions have died. They talk about there own torts from years back, eating cake, drilling shells to tie rope, painting names and addresses on shells with toxic led paint, and when I ask where are they now they seem a little upset, once they realise we basically killed them. In some cases slowly but kill them we did. Our summers are short and most of the tortoises that have survived live in the south of England, once I go through the needs of our shelled friends and what it really involves I am pleased to say most decide that the commitment is too huge not to mention the cost, it raises the question should they be sold as pets, part of me says no, yet part of me thinks absolutely, so long as captive bred and not imported illegally , in some cases I'm sure there are more CB than there are living wild. Which has to be a godsend for species whose numbers are so low that they are at the verge of extinction in their natural habitat. We are but caretakers after all. Thankfully the internet has brought knowledge to the new and old keepers. It's not all good advice but with a little common sense we can achieve a better standard of care for our torts than we have ever done before. When looking to buy or obtain something new, be it a car or an animal, we never want to hear the negative side or the bad points, and sadly the above article and it's info gets forgotten by irresponsible uncaring breeders. The baby sulcata I have here is a case in point. Bought by inexperienced owners, who hadn't even researched what a med spur thigh even looks like, and irresponsible breeders who haven't the decency to tell the buyer what sort of spur they are spending 180.00 pounds on. And then refuse to take it back. Munch ( as it's called now) came to me in a shoe box, it was being kept in a box at night in the living room and put outside during the day I a puppy pen, no shelter no warmth nothing, luckily they bought it in as it seemed lethargic and not eating within the week of getting it, we have had a warmish couple of weeks during the day, poor thing is lucky to be alive. I have looked after sulcata and Leo's and they can do well in our climate if given the support. I know people with groups that are thriving but the costs are huge financially and emotionally. I'm attached to munch already but the reality of finding him a home in 40 years time, it worries me.
 

Tidgy's Dad

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Working in the vets, it has become known that I keep tortoises and l am constantly reading and researching their needs and diet. Clients often ask and say I would love a tortoise. They are surprised when I say there are many out there needing homes, they think they are rare here in the uk. I explain that the majority that were shipped over by the millions have died. They talk about there own torts from years back, eating cake, drilling shells to tie rope, painting names and addresses on shells with toxic led paint, and when I ask where are they now they seem a little upset, once they realise we basically killed them. In some cases slowly but kill them we did. Our summers are short and most of the tortoises that have survived live in the south of England, once I go through the needs of our shelled friends and what it really involves I am pleased to say most decide that the commitment is too huge not to mention the cost, it raises the question should they be sold as pets, part of me says no, yet part of me thinks absolutely, so long as captive bred and not imported illegally , in some cases I'm sure there are more CB than there are living wild. Which has to be a godsend for species whose numbers are so low that they are at the verge of extinction in their natural habitat. We are but caretakers after all. Thankfully the internet has brought knowledge to the new and old keepers. It's not all good advice but with a little common sense we can achieve a better standard of care for our torts than we have ever done before. When looking to buy or obtain something new, be it a car or an animal, we never want to hear the negative side or the bad points, and sadly the above article and it's info gets forgotten by irresponsible uncaring breeders. The baby sulcata I have here is a case in point. Bought by inexperienced owners, who hadn't even researched what a med spur thigh even looks like, and irresponsible breeders who haven't the decency to tell the buyer what sort of spur they are spending 180.00 pounds on. And then refuse to take it back. Munch ( as it's called now) came to me in a shoe box, it was being kept in a box at night in the living room and put outside during the day I a puppy pen, no shelter no warmth nothing, luckily they bought it in as it seemed lethargic and not eating within the week of getting it, we have had a warmish couple of weeks during the day, poor thing is lucky to be alive. I have looked after sulcata and Leo's and they can do well in our climate if given the support. I know people with groups that are thriving but the costs are huge financially and emotionally. I'm attached to munch already but the reality of finding him a home in 40 years time, it worries me.
As you are probably aware, the most common tortoise available in the UK is the Moroccan spur-thighed, Testudo graeca graeca. I had a couple when I was a child and I remember Blue Peter giving all sorts of what I now know to be bad advice on their care. But the captive breeding of this tortoise outside of Morocco maybe their only hope. The numbers in the wild here are dropping to critical levels. Babies are taken for sale in the markets and large adult females are still being taken and used to make fire bellows and banjos.
Some populations now consist largely of old adult males.
The export of millions to Europe may have drastically reduced the numbers in the first place, but now, the foreign populations are the best hope for the future.
 

Gordi

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Good old blue peter lol ... I didn't know graeca were the most common. I have two Ibera , would love some little Egyptians , running out of space though, unless I drastically reduce the hens and chop down a few trees :0/
 

Tidgy's Dad

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Good old blue peter lol ... I didn't know graeca were the most common. I have two Ibera , would love some little Egyptians , running out of space though, unless I drastically reduce the hens and chop down a few trees :0/
Eat the hens!
Not sure about chopping down trees, though.
I spend a lot of time discouraging people to buy torts here.
They see how happy Tidgy is and want one as a toy for their children without purchasing anything at all.
Most domestic torts here lead sorry lives and most babies don't last more than two weeks.
 

Gordi

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Lol .... We do !! Well the cockerels. Don't think we will be chopping trees. Although the fifty ft pear is getting dangerous when the fruits come down lol. It's such a sorry tale to hear, to have these amazing creatures suffering where you are. Two weeks !!! That's dreadful :(:(
 

mike taylor

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So you want a sulcata tortoise yeah ? Here's something to think about . Before and after picture of want one week gets you from two sulcatas.
 

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Gordi

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Not quite sure where your coming from mike. Is it the sully's created enough poop to match two bags of mulch or the mulch became a pile of poop lol
 

mike taylor

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The mulch is full of poop, pee , and just nasty . Haha Some people don't think about the poop size of 70 lbs tortoises . They poop a lot ! You have to clean it up and do something with all the poop .
 

Alaskamike

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The mulch is full of poop, pee , and just nasty . Haha Some people don't think about the poop size of 70 lbs tortoises . They poop a lot ! You have to clean it up and do something with all the poop .

The poop thing is funny. I was just laughing today about a huge pile my little 7lb Sulcatta left in his wake. I have to clean out his underground hide box too. They go where-ever and don't have any shame in dragging it all over And it's stinky too LOL
 

Myroli

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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!
I almost got one when I was a junior in high school when my sister and her boyfriend took me to a reptile expo, luckily they have lots of different types if reptiles and made me go home and do research first, but then my mom said no. I'm glad b/c I was not yet prepared to have one but now I am so now I have Ki :)
 

Tinker-Tot

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Having a tort was not something I planned on experiencing...with that being said after Tinker wandered into my life (no doubt discarded by a neighbor who grew tired or changed their minds) I decided she was mine. I took her in started doing the research and so happy I did. But after all that we have invested both time, money, and love this is not the pet for the faint at heart. I get so many comments about how much effort I put into her happiness but it's so worth it!! Thank you to all on this forum for you have truly given me the knowledge to provide the best life possible for my darling.
 

Gillian M

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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
A very ineresting thread. and really good advice.I agree with you: torts reptiles not ammals, don't really give and take with you, only run for food, are not at all cuddly, and so on. Therefore, one has to take these points into consideration before getting anywhere near a tortoise.
 

mike taylor

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The poop thing is funny. I was just laughing today about a huge pile my little 7lb Sulcatta left in his wake. I have to clean out his underground hide box too. They go where-ever and don't have any shame in dragging it all over And it's stinky too LOL
The funny thing is all that poop came out of their night box . That's not the poop I had to pick up out of the enclosure . All tortoises do is eat, poop ,sleep, eat ,poop,sleep ,break yard stuff ,eat ,poop ,sleep ,break your fences, poop some more ,and pull on your heart strings .
 

kirsty Johnston

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Awesome post. I think it's fair to say that it's seriously under estimated how much care, money and effort a tort costs! I personally live in Scotland and the weather isn't as humid as some places in the states for example. To rectify this plus make sure my tort is getting the best quality of life I spend £200 a month ($220) on gas and electricity to ensure that the temperature are right as well as having two permanent areas the tort can live comfortably indoors and out. I'm forever seeing people trying to sell on their torts because they simply can't take care of them. Keeping them in tiny vivs, feeding them supplimented food and have terribly bad pyramiding. It's just unfair and people simply need to educate themselves before they consider buying a tort. My little fella is a member of the family and I must look like a total idiot with my garden gloves on cutting nettles and thistles at the side of the road! But for me he's all worth it and I wish people would research before making such a massive commitment
 

DaveandHeather

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Can anyone ID? Gopher? I live in Jacksonville fl
 

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Big Charlie

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This thread makes me sad. I got Charlie at a pet store. They gave me one sheet of instructions. A combination of research and luck has resulted in a healthy 16 year old. Now I wonder what happened to his brothers and sisters. They might not have been so lucky.
 
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