The Book of Om: Or, Adventures in Tortoise Keeping, New Zealand edition

Stitchpunk

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INTRODUCTION:

It's January.
3 months roughly till I get my baby Greek spur thigh tortoise (Testudo graeca) from the breeder. I've started this thread to document my process of getting ready for his/her arrival, and what comes after that. I hope it will be of interest to prospective new owners generally, but also I'm aiming at providing a handy reference for New Zealand specifically. Tortoises are VERY rare and hard to obtain here, so the pet shops of NZ don't cater for them. No ready made tortoise tables, pre-fabricated tortoise food or lighting packages for us!

Why the Book of Om? If you are a Discworld/Terry Pratchett fan then you'll know why. For the rest of you - the Discworld book Small Gods is about how people create gods, and what happens to those gods when people stop believing in them. In the story, the Great God Om wakes up one day to discover that even though a country and religion are named after him, it's all lip service and ritual and only ONE person still truly Believes. As a result he has lost all of his powers and has somehow become a small, one-eyed tortoise. His new mission in life is to protect his one remaining follower and thereby save his own life. So, really, my tortoise HAS to be named Om. No contest.

I might add that the Discworld is a flat planet that rests on the backs of 4 humongous elephants, who in turn ride on the shell of Great A'Tuin, the World Turtle, who swims through space. If you like reptiles then consider checking these books out :)

I hope that more experienced tortoise keepers (i.e. pretty much everyone here) will butt in with comments, advice and corrections. This is a conversation, not a blog. :)
 

Prairie Mom

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Looking forward to reading this:)

I'll do my best to keep Death distracted, so he feels no inclination to visit sweet little Om.
death kitty.jpg

or maybe I'll disappear the Hogfather again -Death was pretty busy then!
 

Prairie Mom

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oh!...and I'm already putting in a thread request....
.................................................................................Lots of photos of what your yard and what your area of the country looks like in general. Never been to New Zealand and I'm nosey.:)
 

Stitchpunk

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WHERE THE HECK DO I FIND A TORTOISE IN NEW ZEALAND?

1) http://reptilez.co.nz/

the only website I've found that actually lists tortoises for sale. This is where mine will be coming from. Even if they are listed as out of stock, do email in case they are expecting babies soon. Get your name on the waiting list.

2) http://www.reptilepark.co.nz/

Slightly run down but charming and worth a visit. Home to Hermanns, Greek, Leopard, Star and Redfoot tortoises. They don't advertise them for sale that I'm aware of, but if you email them they'll let you know what they have available and provide a care sheet of sorts.

3) http://www.trademe.co.nz/pets-animals/reptiles-turtles

The local equivalent of Ebay. There are 1 or 2 breeders that I haven't managed to get any response from who very occasionally list tortoises for sale. Even more rarely someone may want to rehome a pet tortoise.
NOTE: From the NZ Herpetological Society website:

"In 1984 it was agreed with the EEC Council to treat three species of Mediterranean tortoise (the Spur-thighed, Hermann's and Marginated Tortoise from Greece) according to Appendix 1 of the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The Egyptian Tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) was added to Appendix I in 1994. This meant that these four species were protected and commercial trade strictly prohibited. For the sale, exchange or barter of these protected tortoises by private individuals a license is required."

So the reselling of a pet tortoise on TradeMe is probably technically illegal since a "civilian" owner won't have a license to sell one. Whether you report such a sale to TradeMe or buy the tortoise to give it an awesome new home is a matter for your own conscience.
 

Stitchpunk

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oh!...and I'm already putting in a thread request....
.................................................................................Lots of photos of what your yard and what your area of the country looks like in general. Never been to New Zealand and I'm nosey.:)
You've seen Lord of the Rings, right? It looks EXACTLY like that. But with more sheep.

Well, the pretty parts of it look like that. Also Hobbiton is a real place now that you can visit, and you can even have a beer at the Green Dragon pub. However I live in Auckland, population 1 million. The harbour is nice. We're surrounded by volcanoes, all but 1 of which are extinct...

IMG_6316.jpg

This is what we did on New Years Eve and that is the aforementioned non-dead (dormant) volcano. One day it will kill us all. Awesome.
 

Prairie Mom

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You've seen Lord of the Rings, right? It looks EXACTLY like that. But with more sheep.

Well, the pretty parts of it look like that. Also Hobbiton is a real place now that you can visit, and you can even have a beer at the Green Dragon pub. However I live in Auckland, population 1 million. The harbour is nice. We're surrounded by volcanoes, all but 1 of which are extinct...

View attachment 161266

This is what we did on New Years Eve and that is the aforementioned non-dead (dormant) volcano. One day it will kill us all. Awesome.
Looks beautiful!

I am VERY aware that Hobbiton is now a tourist destination. VERY AWARE! Oh yeah. Baby!
I just figure the entire country can't all be Lord of the Rings...can it?:D There have to be a few ugly bus stops some where;)

Interested to learn more about tort keeping in Auckland. Do you do any gardening? If so, please post away!
 

Stitchpunk

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STEP 1: ASSESS YOUR ENVIRONMENT

I decided that the very first things I should buy were a temperature gun, so I can take readings in the room that will have the indoor enclosure; and a hygrometer to measure the humidity. The climate in my bit of Auckland is mild - occasional frosts in winter is as bad as it gets. When my tort is an adult it should be able to live outside for most of the year. But for this first upcoming winter I plan to keep it indoors. I'm buying this equipment now so that I can take measurements over a period of a week or so and get some sort of average for the summer environment. Once I have that information I'll be better able to decide what style of indoor enclosure to build.
The temp guns and hygrometers are both readily available on TradeMe for around $20 each. I'm waiting for them to arrive and then I can start recording data. yay!
 

Stitchpunk

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Looks beautiful!

I am VERY aware that Hobbiton is now a tourist destination. VERY AWARE! Oh yeah. Baby!
I just figure the entire country can't all be Lord of the Rings...can it?:D There have to be a few ugly bus stops some where;)

Interested to learn more about tort keeping in Auckland. Do you do any gardening? If so, please post away!
oh, there's plenty of ugly, just like anywhere else. And there was a story on the news the other night about how red-eared sliders are becoming far too numerous in Auckland and their sale may have to be regulated. *sigh*

The thing is, because we've been an isolated little group of islands for so long our native fauna is pretty unusual. We have TWO native mammal species. TWO. (Bats.) Most of the ecological niches usually occupied by mammals were taken by birds/reptiles/amphibians here; and because there were no mammalian predators here they all got sloppy about self defence. Hence, flightless birds. (even one of the bat species doesn't like flying!) You can imagine what the introduction of cats, dogs, rats, stoats, ferrets and possums has done to the native species. As a result we now have pretty strict laws about what people can keep as pets and what can be imported, which is part of the reason why tortoises are so rare here. No gerbils, hamsters, squirrels, snakes allowed down here. No pet monkeys, iguanas, chameleons, apes or big cats (good thing too.) On the plus side, no big predators either. No bears, foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons...only 2 poisonous spiders and one of those came from Australia. Only a couple of raptor bird species. So WHEN I can let my tort outside there won't be so many dangers as there are elsewhere. (I do have 2 cats though.)

Because I'm Difficult I always want the pets that are rare down here. Turtles are easy to come by, you can also get bearded dragons, leopard geckos and blue-tongued skinks now which you couldn't 10 years ago. You're not allowed to keep native lizards, geckos or skinks without special permits and restrictions about cages and stuff.....

I've totally forgotten what the point of this post was.....
 

Prairie Mom

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I've totally forgotten what the point of this post was.....
I watched some of "Nature's weirdest events" on Netflix. I swear every episode was about horrible consequences of foreign species introduction into Australia (different country-sorry!). It talked about how there aren't predators for some of the animals getting out of control. The mice epidemics were enough to make my skin crawl, so I guess I can understand why New Zealand is so concerned about wild animal control.
 

Stitchpunk

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Photos for the nosy parkers :)

This is the room that will have the indoor enclosure. It's the warmest and quietest room in the house.... And the fullest....

ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1452139093.983473.jpg

Once I know what sort of enclosure I'm building I'm gonna have some serious reorganizing on my hands!

This is the dinky front yard
ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1452139177.207579.jpg

Plenty of yummy roses and a giant aloe Vera triffid :)

And part of the back yard...
ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1452139221.748330.jpg

Yeah. A gardener I am not. Look at all the delicious weeds though!!!! (The yard will get beautified at some point, but we just finished putting in a new bathroom & have renovation fatigue.)
 

Stitchpunk

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While I'm feeling photographic you might as well meet the other non-humans here.

image.jpeg
Imperial Storm Trooper (Imp), plakat tail betta fish. He shares the tank with a blue mystery snail named Shush.

image.jpeg
HarrietJonesPrimeMinister, Maine Coon

image.jpeg
Ensign Spud Crusher, silver tabby British Shorthair.
 

Prairie Mom

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Oh my word!!! All of your pet names!!! I get every reference:D I'm starting to wonder if I was switched at birth!!!

Great photos! Thanks for sharing. I love this forum, because I would peek over every fence I could if it weren't so creeeeepy:D
 

Yvonne G

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I just LOVE Harriet Jones. She's so regal-looking. I'm crazy about the kitties. And when I look at your yards, I don't see anything but tortoise space. But I really have to wonder about the "quiet" room. With all those toys in there how can you allow your yarn to be on the floor? No kids?
 

Stitchpunk

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I just LOVE Harriet Jones. She's so regal-looking. I'm crazy about the kitties. And when I look at your yards, I don't see anything but tortoise space. But I really have to wonder about the "quiet" room. With all those toys in there how can you allow your yarn to be on the floor? No kids?
Oh yeah, SUPER regal! Lol

ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1452188020.222372.jpg

Nope, no kids, human babies aren't my thing. A 20-something stepdaughter who is really cool and lives an hour or so north with her boyfriend.
 

Prairie Mom

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Maybe! I do love my fellow nerds :) here's a photo of Spud as a baby, see if you can spot why we picked a Star Trek theme....
View attachment 161324
Ditto!!!!

Also, here's what I see...
united federation.png .....am I right!!?!??!

or am I missing the mark and it's supposed to be part of the enterprise or a bird of prey or something?
hmmm....could be the enterprise......????
 

Stitchpunk

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Ditto!!!!

Also, here's what I see...
View attachment 161341 .....am I right!!?!??!

or am I missing the mark and it's supposed to be part of the enterprise or a bird of prey or something?
hmmm....could be the enterprise......????
Oh, I hadn't thought of that one actually!
It was this I was thinking of originally

starfleetlogo.jpg

It's what those marks on his flanks reminded me of anyway. Then Ensign Crusher coz he was the youngest member of the household, and Spud because British Shorthair adults supposedly look like potatoes balanced on 4 toothpicks :)
 

Prairie Mom

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Oh, I hadn't thought of that one actually!
It was this I was thinking of originally

View attachment 161344

It's what those marks on his flanks reminded me of anyway. Then Ensign Crusher coz he was the youngest member of the household, and Spud because British Shorthair adults supposedly look like potatoes balanced on 4 toothpicks :)
Oh my word!!! Can't believe I didn't see it! You're exactly right! I looked at it wrong. Like when you see the vase/face illusion. Brilliant!
vase face.png
 

Oxalis

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Very nice! We're not into the human babies bit either, so we love the "surround yourself with animals" philosophy! But we're down to just 2 more cichlids now besides Steve the tortoise. So perhaps more animals will be in our future soon. We are great local zoo supporters though!! Also: love the purple chair! ;D
 

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