Wild Baby Sulcatas

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Tom

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The final speaker at this year's TTPG conference was a man from Senegal Africa named Tomas Diagne. Tomas founded and runs the "African Chelonian Institute". His organization is primarily focused on saving the SULCATA tortoise from extinction in the wild. YES, I said sulcata and extinction in the same sentence. If you are chuckling, you are not alone. How on Earth could the sulcata be in ANY danger of extinction??? His field estimates found that there are around 40 (yes- FOUR ZERO) sulcatas left in the wild in all of Senegal. By contrast there are an estimated 6.5 MILLION highly endangered Radiated tortoises left in the wild. They literally had to stop the car and get out to remove Radiated tortoises from the roadway every few miles in South Western Madagascar. Both of these stats completely blew me away.

Tomas' group spent years cultivating a relationship with the locals in a big area that he intended to use as a reserve to make sure the tortoises wouldn't be eaten and used for traditional medicine when they were re-introduced. He has recently finished his third and final re-introduction in this 800 hectare area. He showed us pics of the most gorgeous, perfectly shelled, sub-adults as they were releasing them back into the wild. They all had telemetry epoxied onto their shells and I am waiting for Tomas to email me the English translation of the study about how and where they all dispersed.

I could go on and on, but the big question for me was BABIES. Here's a man who has been in love with sulcatas since he was a boy. He has studied them in the wild and kept them his whole life. I don't know of any human on the planet who knows more about WILD sulcatas than this man. So, of course, I asked him if he had studied hatchlings in the wild. What to they do, where do they go, where do they hang out and what do they eat? He told me that until about two weeks before he boarded the plane to come here for the TTPG conference one of his field researchers saw a hatchling in the wild for the first time ever. He was mad at the man for not taking pictures, since Tomas had NEVER seen a hatchling in the wild. They speculate that this baby is out of the adults that they re-introduced in 2006. A week later Tomas himself saw 3 more hatchlings. This man was giddy before me telling me of seeing his firs three wild hatchlings. I asked him where they were and what they were doing and what they ate. He said they were either hiding or moving from cover to cover. He said that he did not see them eat, but that it was the rainy season and everything was green and growing in the........................ WAIT FOR IT.......................................... HERE IT COMES............... in the MARSH area!!!!!!!! All four hatchlings were found in a marshy area!!! In disbelief at what I thought I had just heard in broken English, I said, "Marsh, as in wet and muddy?" He said, "Yes. Like a swamp." I swear this is what we each said. I am not making this up. After watching him get all giddy about seeing his first wild hatchlings, HE then watched ME get all giddy about hearing about wild hatchling sulcatas in a FRIGGIN' MARSH!!! I think we would have talked for hours, but he was called up to give his presentation. But what an AMAZING 20 minute conversation we had. I intend to keep in touch with him and ask him a million more questions. I hope to one day visit his facility and preserves in Senegal. In the mean time he is now in Ventura County, CA touring the Behler Chelonian Institute. If time permits he has accepted my offer to come visit my very humble collection and see my operation. I think he is interested in seeing a small scale hobby-type breeder and how I artificial incubate them. He told me how they remove their eggs from the nest for incubation and put them in a new hole in the ground in a safer area, protected from the myriad of predators.

He will be doing another sulcata only presentation on December 3rd at a private facility not far from my place. So I will see him at least once more before he returns to Africa. I have SOOOOOOO many questions for him...
 

Tom

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Eweezyfosheezy said:
Thanks Tom now I am pissed I didnt get to make this year!!! lol

So we'll see you next year then, right?:D

Haha. Next year it will be in Minnesota, or somewhere really far away like that...
 

DesertGrandma

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That is so cool Tom. I can just imagine how excited you must have been to meet this man. Here's hoping he will take you up on your offer to come visit your place. You would probably keep him there until he couldn't stand it anymore, haha.

What is the debatable part?
 

DeanS

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DesertGrandma said:
What is the debatable part?

The fact that the babies are hanging out in the marsh...and not a burrow in the middle of the dry desert:cool:
 

FADE2BLACK_1973

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Thanks for all that info on wild sulcata's, Tom :) So I guess you could break the humidity secret on baby sulcata's from this. Found wild baby sulcata's in a marsh in the wild. So sounds like this is where they spend their younger days until they get a certain age. I also wonder if the adult females nest near marshes in the rainy season in the wild? Might be a reason why they saw the baby sulcata's there. Please let us know more on this :D
 

wellington

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Thank you for sharing. Can't wait to here more. I don't have Sulcata's:( but, can I assume that this info probably also pertains to Leopards:D? Hope he can make it to your place. Don't let him go until you got all the goods. Just wondering, if they are so low in numbers in the wilds of Africa, and there are so many produced in captivity in the USA, and other countries, why can't they be purchased by or donated to Tomas and his cause, to be raised to go back into the wild? If humans can catch them from the wilds to sell as pets, why can't the same? humans take cb Sullies and put them back to the wild? If it could be done, maybe a Sully breeder or you:D could start a fund raiser to cover the cost of shipping them to Tomas in Africa? I would donate a couple bucks. Just a thought :shy:
 

Tim/Robin

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I was very impressed with the man as well. Like Tom said, Tomas gets giddy like a kid at Christmas talkin about Sulcatas. I was able to go with Tomas and others to some very well known tortoise keepers in Phoenix. While walking around a huge sulcata enclosure we found a baby that had hatched naturally out of the ground. Tomas was thrilled. He took many photos. It was amazing to hang out with him for a day.
 

lushcious

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How neat! Funny hearing about sulcatas in the marshes! I hope the hatchlings are surviving fine in the wild :(
 

gopherhockey03

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Tom said:
Eweezyfosheezy said:
Thanks Tom now I am pissed I didnt get to make this year!!! lol

So we'll see you next year then, right?:D

Haha. Next year it will be in Minnesota, or somewhere really far away like that...

Haha did you say Minnesota?!?!?! HOORAHHHHHYYYYYY!!!!! =) haha we never get anything Tortoise here....

But yes really cool!!! Hope he goes to your place keep us informed!!!
 

N2TORTS

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Tom ... what an incredible story and experience . Thank you so much for sharing...

JD~:)
 

Tom

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wellington said:
Thank you for sharing. Can't wait to here more. I don't have Sulcata's:( but, can I assume that this info probably also pertains to Leopards:D? Hope he can make it to your place. Don't let him go until you got all the goods. Just wondering, if they are so low in numbers in the wilds of Africa, and there are so many produced in captivity in the USA, and other countries, why can't they be purchased by or donated to Tomas and his cause, to be raised to go back into the wild? If humans can catch them from the wilds to sell as pets, why can't the same? humans take cb Sullies and put them back to the wild? If it could be done, maybe a Sully breeder or you:D could start a fund raiser to cover the cost of shipping them to Tomas in Africa? I would donate a couple bucks. Just a thought :shy:

I don't think this pertains to leopards. The one person that I have heard of who has seen hatchlings in the wild did not mention anything about marshes or wetlands pertaining to the hatchling leopards. That remains an unanswered question.

And as exciting as it is, its really only four hatchlings that we are talking about here. Of course, its the only four wild hatchlings that I have ever heard of, but still... Much more research is needed. MUCH more.

There are a few problems with shipping sulcatas over there for release. First you need a suitable area where they won't be killed. Second you have to get the stamp of approval from a whole lotta people. Third, Tomas believes there are three subspecies. Science has not recognized them as such yet, but he describes three distinctly different types from three different parts of the range. Here in the states, they are are jumbled together and interbred. So some serious genetic testing would have to be done to release the right sulcatas into the right areas.

It sure would be neat to ship a few hundred or thousand over there though...
 

ShadowRancher

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That is awesome...seriously. My cousin is in the peace Corp in Senegal and told me she saw a tortoise in the wild there after I wrote her about Levi. She couldn't identify it but I don't think there are any big torts besides sulcatas in that area.

I'll have to send this info to my vet :) I don't think he gets in many sullys and when I described to him the research being talked about here he basically said that while hydration and humidity may work to prevent pyramiding it sounded like an artificial solution, that they don't get that kind of moisture in the wild (no worries I didn't listen ;)) and that I should shoot for a more sparse diet instead so Levi will grow slower at a more natural pace (implying super fast growth contributes to pyramiding....which I don't completely disagree with logically but I'm not going to not give my tortoise what he wants to eat either).
 

FADE2BLACK_1973

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Tom said:
He said that he did not see them eat, but that it was the rainy season and everything was green and growing in the........................ WAIT FOR IT.......................................... HERE IT COMES............... in the MARSH area!!!!!!!! All four hatchlings were found in a marshy area!!! In disbelief at what I thought I had just heard in broken English, I said, "Marsh, as in wet and muddy?" He said, "Yes. Like a swamp." I swear this is what we each said. I am not making this up. After watching him get all giddy about seeing his first wild hatchlings, HE then watched ME get all giddy about hearing about wild hatchling sulcatas in a FRIGGIN' MARSH!!!

Tom, So your theory that humidity for hatchlings and babies could be right after all. All those who say different and had different theories about pyramiding is caused by diet alone could in fact be wrong? This is how I took it because marshes is very humid and those hatchlings being found there, lives from a humid young life. And like I stated before, wondering if the adult females could be going to the wet marshes (at a certain time of the year, like during the rainy seasons) to nest and lay their eggs. So the hatchlings would hatch and live in the wet marshes. Because they do travel long distances in the wild and this could be a natural instinct to travel to the marshes to lay their eggs. Like seaturtles do in the wild. Go from the ocean to a beach to lay.
 

Neal

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I don't have enough information to really have any kind of debate here, but I am a bit skeptical that the answer to smooth shelled sulcatas in the wild is they stay in swampy areas.

Debate aside...this is interesting information.
 
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