Which tortoises species to consider?

Tom

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You are dead wrong on the leopards being out an active in 50-60 degree temps. In fact a larger sulcata could withstand those temps better then the smaller leopards.
As for night time, all tortoises should be housed inside a shed or night box at night to protect them from any animals that may prey on them while they are sleeping.
Steve specifically said South African Leopards. Not regular leopards. I saw wild SA leopards in Cape Town in the big nature reserve down at the tip of SA. The climate there is similar to San Francisco. Cold and clammy much of the year. The wild torts there were walking around in the sun when temps were mid 50s and 20-30 mph winds. I was freezing even with a heavy jacket on.

I've never tested the limits of what either type of leopard tort can handle. I've seen plenty of regular leopards get sick with cool nights, and never seen any of them get sick with 80 degree nights. I know people who let SA leopards get cooler in winter, and they seem to handle it fine. I keep mine warmer, but I know they'd be fine with cooler with temps.

SA leopards are definitely from a more temperate climate, while sulcatas come from a region that is always hot with no "cold" part to the year. A cold winter day in sulcata land might drop all the way to 88, but it would quickly return to warmer, more normal temps within a couple fo days. By contrast, there was a crew member working with us in SA that lived up in the mountains. He said it snows there and the local leopard tortoise population hibernates under the snow. I did not go verify this, but he seemed credible. He was a bit of a naturalist, and knew a lot about SA wildlife and flora. Point being: SA leopards can handle a SC winter much better than a sulcata. My male SA leopards do a self imposed anorexia in winter. They greatly reduce their food intake in spite of warm night box temps. Conversely, in summer, they eat more than any other tortoises on my ranch. One 40 pound male leopard eats more than a 90 pound sulcata in summer. The female SA leopards don't do this. They eat consistently all year long.
 

wellington

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Steve specifically said South African Leopards. Not regular leopards. I saw wild SA leopards in Cape Town in the big nature reserve down at the tip of SA. The climate there is similar to San Francisco. Cold and clammy much of the year. The wild torts there were walking around in the sun when temps were mid 50s and 20-30 mph winds. I was freezing even with a heavy jacket on.

I've never tested the limits of what either type of leopard tort can handle. I've seen plenty of regular leopards get sick with cool nights, and never seen any of them get sick with 80 degree nights. I know people who let SA leopards get cooler in winter, and they seem to handle it fine. I keep mine warmer, but I know they'd be fine with cooler with temps.

SA leopards are definitely from a more temperate climate, while sulcatas come from a region that is always hot with no "cold" part to the year. A cold winter day in sulcata land might drop all the way to 88, but it would quickly return to warmer, more normal temps within a couple fo days. By contrast, there was a crew member working with us in SA that lived up in the mountains. He said it snows there and the local leopard tortoise population hibernates under the snow. I did not go verify this, but he seemed credible. He was a bit of a naturalist, and knew a lot about SA wildlife and flora. Point being: SA leopards can handle a SC winter much better than a sulcata. My male SA leopards do a self imposed anorexia in winter. They greatly reduce their food intake in spite of warm night box temps. Conversely, in summer, they eat more than any other tortoises on my ranch. One 40 pound male leopard eats more than a 90 pound sulcata in summer. The female SA leopards don't do this. They eat consistently all year long.
The way he worded it I didn't even catch the SA part, just the leopard part.
(If you must have a large tortoise, get a leopard tortoise originating from South Africa)
I don't have SA leopards so I have no idea what they can or can't do. However, I have never seen anyone suggest letting any leopard get that cold.
I know regular leopards like mine can't.
 

wellington

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I'll have to strongly disagree with you on this one. I'll take a species that is adapted to deal with 40's and 50's in the wild, and experiences rainfall in the winter, over one that rarely gets below 80F in the wild.

I have seen reports of them being out in cool weather somewhere. If I recall, Tom has actually seen them in the wild and maybe he's got more to add.

Conditions right on the coast:
View attachment 331070



Conditions inland a little bit:
View attachment 331069

And of course for comparison:
View attachment 331071
My apologies, you are correct with the leopard being the SA kind. That didnt even register in my brain that you mention them. Just the leopard part and the 50/60 temps and no way can the regular ones withstand those temps for more then maybe a day, if that.
 

turtlesteve

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No worries. I've yet to find out exactly what temperature extremes the South African leopards can tolerate but I'll document it here. And yes, I have a group that I am raising up from hatchlings, the largest of them are about 6" at present. I'll get some pics one of these days.

I am extremely saddened that the two species of Hesperotestudo tortoises native to South Carolina before ~10,000 years ago are extinct. The larger species (Hesperotestudo crassiscutata) was larger than a Sulcata and lived here during the ice ages when it was colder than now. So there WERE cold-tolerant giant tortoises, but we humans most likely ate them all.
 

wellington

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No worries. I've yet to find out exactly what temperature extremes the South African leopards can tolerate but I'll document it here. And yes, I have a group that I am raising up from hatchlings, the largest of them are about 6" at present. I'll get some pics one of these days.

I am extremely saddened that the two species of Hesperotestudo tortoises native to South Carolina before ~10,000 years ago are extinct. The larger species (Hesperotestudo crassiscutata) was larger than a Sulcata and lived here during the ice ages when it was colder than now. So there WERE cold-tolerant giant tortoises, but we humans most likely ate them all.
Yea I have the regular leopards. I wish they could tolerate colder temps. It would save me lots in the winter. I have one that likes colder temps, he always picks the one cold spot 60/65 in the enclosure during fall but then he gets a wet nose and I have to make sure he doesn't get there day after day. He has never gotten sick, but I think it's because I stop him in time.
That is very sad that those cold toletant from years ago are no longer with us.
 
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jcase

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Hi there,

I'm new to the forum and I figured this would be a great outlet to help me do some research into getting a tortoise. I've always loved turtles/tortoises and such. I had a turtle I kept for years and years when I was a kid. I've been thinking about getting a tortoise for a while, but I'm the type of person who tries to talk myself out of getting something I want for a while, just to make sure I really want it. Anyway, a lot of months have gone by, and I still want one. So, that has led me to doing some research as to the variety that would be best for me, if there is one. My current situation is that I own the home I live in, which is settled on around 2 acres. We have a pretty nice fenced in back yard (about a quarter of an acre) and I initially thought that would be a great area for a tortoise to be happy in. I was reading up on Sulcata Tortoises and I was all into the idea of getting one of those for a while... until I read that they are literal escape artists and that they have been known to dig holes that are 30 feet long. My wife would kill me if I allowed that. Plus I can't stand the idea of a pet digging out and getting gone/run over. All that being said, I was just wondering if anybody had any recommendation on a nice larger species of tortoise that has a nice personality and is also less likely to want to dig huge holes and escape? I'm fine with some digging. My back yard is far from perfect. And I also do not mind if I end up having to bury some wire or some other obstacle around the perimeter of my fence to make certain they can't burrow out. I just can't have huge craters in my yard. Any advice?

Also, I'm wondering about the practicality of my plan in the first place. I may need my bubble burst, but I'd rather get to the reality of keeping a tortoise quickly. I Live in South Carolina. For the most part, we have a nice, warm climate. If I was to get a tortoise, I would like to keep him outside after he got some size to him. Would it be practical to build some sort of structure, similar to, say, a dog house and keep it heated during the winter months for him to stay in? I just have no idea what's best in overwintering a tortoise and what is practical.

Thanks in advance for any tips/help,

Daniel Jones
I'm in NC, be wary of foxes, raccoons and coyotes. I'm putting up an electric fence in the new tortoise yard, just a single wire over the barrier. My neighbor also keeps tortoises (and turtles) and has had losses due to raccoons.
 

djones8623

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Well, I guess I probably just need to consider keeping a tortoise on the inside during the cool months. I have a spare bedroom that is pretty open. As far as the red foot tortoise, what would be a decent sized enclosure to keep them in during cooler weather? I mean, I know bigger is probably always better, but what would be a good size to where they could be happy?
 

Cherryshell

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Well, I guess I probably just need to consider keeping a tortoise on the inside during the cool months. I have a spare bedroom that is pretty open. As far as the red foot tortoise, what would be a decent sized enclosure to keep them in during cooler weather? I mean, I know bigger is probably always better, but what would be a good size to where they could be happy?

The minimum would be an 8x4 enclosure and it would need to be a closed enclosure to keep their high humidity and heat needs met. The size of your tort would also be a factor.
 

Tom

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The way he worded it I didn't even catch the SA part, just the leopard part.
(If you must have a large tortoise, get a leopard tortoise originating from South Africa)
I don't have SA leopards so I have no idea what they can or can't do. However, I have never seen anyone suggest letting any leopard get that cold.
I know regular leopards like mine can't.
I'm in NC, be wary of foxes, raccoons and coyotes. I'm putting up an electric fence in the new tortoise yard, just a single wire over the barrier. My neighbor also keeps tortoises (and turtles) and has had losses due to raccoons.
All tortoises should be locked up in safe night boxes at night. An electric wire isn't going to stop raccoons. They'll find a way in one way or another.
 

jcase

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All tortoises should be locked up in safe night boxes at night. An electric wire isn't going to stop raccoons. They'll find a way in one way or another.

Electric wire does deter raccoons, it won't stop them, but goes very far to deter them. Security is like an onion, with layers. An additional layer is an additional reduction in risk. I've kept bears out of mountain bee hives, with a portable electric fence. Hang bait food on the wire, it takes one round, and they won't cross it again. For bears use bacon, for raccoons use some shellfish.

Yes they should be locked in a night, but it is common to see foxes in the morning here, and not uncommon to see a raccoon in the early morning hours.

Electric fences are cheap, if you care about the tortoises in your yard and you have other wildlife around, run a strand.
 

maggie3fan

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I recommend Sulcata...but this little Redfoot is mighty personable...
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I have NEVER in my almost 20 years keeping tortoises, had one dig, or dig a tunnel...
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While the size of a Sulcata might be scary to a newbie, they actually are very easy keepers and survive mistakes or crappy care. They are hardy, very personable and extremely intelligent. I keep Sulcata in the PNW...
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100_6492.JPG
 

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willee638

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Hi there,

I'm new to the forum and I figured this would be a great outlet to help me do some research into getting a tortoise. I've always loved turtles/tortoises and such. I had a turtle I kept for years and years when I was a kid. I've been thinking about getting a tortoise for a while, but I'm the type of person who tries to talk myself out of getting something I want for a while, just to make sure I really want it. Anyway, a lot of months have gone by, and I still want one. So, that has led me to doing some research as to the variety that would be best for me, if there is one. My current situation is that I own the home I live in, which is settled on around 2 acres. We have a pretty nice fenced in back yard (about a quarter of an acre) and I initially thought that would be a great area for a tortoise to be happy in. I was reading up on Sulcata Tortoises and I was all into the idea of getting one of those for a while... until I read that they are literal escape artists and that they have been known to dig holes that are 30 feet long. My wife would kill me if I allowed that. Plus I can't stand the idea of a pet digging out and getting gone/run over. All that being said, I was just wondering if anybody had any recommendation on a nice larger species of tortoise that has a nice personality and is also less likely to want to dig huge holes and escape? I'm fine with some digging. My back yard is far from perfect. And I also do not mind if I end up having to bury some wire or some other obstacle around the perimeter of my fence to make certain they can't burrow out. I just can't have huge craters in my yard. Any advice?

Also, I'm wondering about the practicality of my plan in the first place. I may need my bubble burst, but I'd rather get to the reality of keeping a tortoise quickly. I Live in South Carolina. For the most part, we have a nice, warm climate. If I was to get a tortoise, I would like to keep him outside after he got some size to him. Would it be practical to build some sort of structure, similar to, say, a dog house and keep it heated during the winter months for him to stay in? I just have no idea what's best in overwintering a tortoise and what is practical.

Thanks in advance for any tips/help,

Daniel Jones
You definitely have a large sufficient yard for keeping more than one large species of tortoises, you need extra fortified deep in ground fences of several feet to prevent sulcatas from digging out underneath. I have 3 medium size red foot tortoises & they're friendly and not known for digging out but will climb instead over things, Aldabra are also gentle giants.
 

Tom

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you need extra fortified deep in ground fences of several feet to prevent sulcatas from digging out underneath.
This is completely unnecessary. In 30 years of keeping sulcatas outside I've never once put in underground barriers. They don't "dig out". They just dig down to make a burrow sometimes, if you let them. Many of them don't dig at all. The vast majority that try to dig are easily discouraged.
 

Karen Covill

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I also live in SC, and I agree - it's too cold for too long in the winter for them to be outside. My girls have a very large pen (getting enlarged even more in two weeks) of six feet by 15 feet with a pond and tortoise-friendly plants. They spend all late spring, summer and early fall in that pen. In the winter, they each have a private "suite" in a room where the ambient temp is 80, and then, of course, heat lamps and UVB lights. They were four years this past April and, knock wood, are doing very well. They are both friendly - well, as friendly as torts can be. They don't wag their tails or come when they're called. LOL But they know when feeding time is and will come out of the hides to give me their opinions on the meal served that night. I am in the Lexington area. Give the Redfoots consideration. They are really nice torts.
 

cbonza

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Acworth, GA
Hi there,

I'm new to the forum and I figured this would be a great outlet to help me do some research into getting a tortoise. I've always loved turtles/tortoises and such. I had a turtle I kept for years and years when I was a kid. I've been thinking about getting a tortoise for a while, but I'm the type of person who tries to talk myself out of getting something I want for a while, just to make sure I really want it. Anyway, a lot of months have gone by, and I still want one. So, that has led me to doing some research as to the variety that would be best for me, if there is one. My current situation is that I own the home I live in, which is settled on around 2 acres. We have a pretty nice fenced in back yard (about a quarter of an acre) and I initially thought that would be a great area for a tortoise to be happy in. I was reading up on Sulcata Tortoises and I was all into the idea of getting one of those for a while... until I read that they are literal escape artists and that they have been known to dig holes that are 30 feet long. My wife would kill me if I allowed that. Plus I can't stand the idea of a pet digging out and getting gone/run over. All that being said, I was just wondering if anybody had any recommendation on a nice larger species of tortoise that has a nice personality and is also less likely to want to dig huge holes and escape? I'm fine with some digging. My back yard is far from perfect. And I also do not mind if I end up having to bury some wire or some other obstacle around the perimeter of my fence to make certain they can't burrow out. I just can't have huge craters in my yard. Any advice?

Also, I'm wondering about the practicality of my plan in the first place. I may need my bubble burst, but I'd rather get to the reality of keeping a tortoise quickly. I Live in South Carolina. For the most part, we have a nice, warm climate. If I was to get a tortoise, I would like to keep him outside after he got some size to him. Would it be practical to build some sort of structure, similar to, say, a dog house and keep it heated during the winter months for him to stay in? I just have no idea what's best in overwintering a tortoise and what is practical.

Thanks in advance for any tips/help,

Daniel Jones
Hi, Daniel,
I am fairly new to being a tortoise owner but I will tell you our experience so far. I, too, have always loved turtles and tortoises and decided to go for it about 4 months ago. We live in the Atlanta area and also have a nice backyard. We built a large outdoor enclosure that is covered in chicken wire and we made the sides dig-proof in case we got a digger. We made sure that the enclosure has a couple of hides, water, safe plants for grazing and places where the tortoise can get both sun and shade. We decided on a marginated tortoise that needed rehoming. When we first got him, he would go into his shell when we came close and did not move around his enclosure very much. Now he moves around his enclosure all of the time and is not afraid of us when we come close. He has recently started coming towards us when he sees us and knows he is about to be fed. It's the cutest thing. He almost eats out of my hand. He has not been digging at all. We plan to keep him in his outside enclosure most of the year and have a heat source ready for when it gets colder. We also have a smaller enclosure we can put him in our garage in case it gets really cold outside. We soak him about three times a week and feed him in the mornings. We see him grazing in his pen sometimes during the late afternoon. He has really been very little trouble and we just love having him. I could watch him for hours. I, too, did a lot of research and almost talked myself out of getting him but I am so glad that we did. Good luck with your decision. Keep us posted!
 
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