Equipment for a Mediterranean Tortoise
Tortoise Table 48” available in Beech, vivariums should not be used to keep tortoise in as they require a good circulation of air and a good day night temperature gradient. Otherwise long term respiratory problems can occur. During warm weather All Tortoise love being outdoors, use either the Apex Shelter and run or the Square rabbit/guinea pig run. Tortoise love digging so some plastic mesh chicken wire underneath the runs.
Use Tortoise Table 48” available in Beech or Oak, vivariums should not be used to keep tortoise in as they require a good circulation of air and a good day night temperature gradient. Otherwise long term respiratory problems can occur.
The best lighting for a tortoise is one that gives both heat and the required UVA and UVB. Use a PT2192 Exo-Terra Sola-Glo sun lamp125Watt. These Bulbs are designed to give both heat and UV to your animals. Plus an Exo Terra Glo Light 10” PT2056 We recommend two thermometers PT-2465 place one at each end to show the cool temperature and hot end temperatures to indicate that there is a thermal gradient. Best substrate is Loamy compost and playpen sand 1:1 Use a PT-2851 Reptile Hide Out Cave or a Tortoise Hut Large. For drinking water use a Tortoise pool Medium to Large for Adults. Plastic plants are not good as the tortoise WILL try to eat them. A few Rocks and Branches are good as they love climbing over things and exploring.
Hermans Tortoise (Testudo hermanni)
Mediterranean like France, Spain, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Greece and northern Africa.
Horsefields Tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii)
Does not require any paperwork. Although this is not a Mediterranean Tortoise the care is the same.
East of the Caspian Sea in deserts and mountains from Iran to Pakistan. Habitat open, karstic (limestone) regions with dry, sandy and loamy soil
Greek Spurthigh Tortoise (Testudo graeca)
They are found in southern Spain, Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia especially the Middle East. They are found in a variety of environments from seashore dunes to rocky mountain steppes but usually in very hot, dry and arid regions with high summer temperatures. They inhabit areas of sparse vegetation where they browse on grass and plant growth.
Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata)
Found only in parts of Greece, south of Mount Olympus and sometimes in Tuscany and Sardinia. The Marginated Tortoise lives in more mountainous regions. It can be found in elevations as high as 1,600 m (5,250 feet). The tortoise should come with a yellow licence called an article 10 from the DEFRA
The actual conditions required by hatchling tortoises are much the same as those required for their adult counterparts. Obviously in the wild they survive with the same conditions. However due to their size and metabolic systems they are much more vulnerable to outside influences. Because of their size they are much more susceptible to predation particularly in captivity as their range of hidey holes is much more limited and our other normal family pets are often free to roam in the same area. Another problem with their size is that, if they do find a good hidey hole then the new owner will be hard pushed to find their baby tortoises. Surprisingly adult tortoises are also capable of hiding very well; it is amazing how hard it can be to find a 12 inch long tortoise in the dusk on a lawned area with just a few plants around the edge. The other problem with size is that they are much more susceptible to temperature or environment problems, the ideal temperature for a tortoise to maintain its body temperature around (apart from during hibernation) is 30°C, to attain this background temperature of about 18°C plus basking facilities are required. The problem with the baby tortoises’ metabolic system is that it is capable of converting very small quantities of low protein food into an excessive growth rate, lack of the correct vitamins and conditions are capable of causing a baby to become malformed or die very quickly. To much food – even the right food can cause a tortoise to grow too quickly and become bumpy, and damage internal organs very quickly, again leading to a premature death for your tortoise. Because of these problems it is recommended that a baby tortoise be fed on very small quantities of totally natural food (weeds to the uninitiated) with additional calcium added to every meal and weekly vitamin supplements added. Very careful monitoring of growth should be made – weekly weighing, measuring and visual inspection should be made. If a baby tortoise develops ANY bumpiness then the volume of food it is consuming should be cut back. Daily feeding is not necessary to keep your baby tortoise healthy, in fact daily feeding is more likely to cause your baby tortoise problems than irregular feeding (i.e. every three or even four days) – where they come from suitable food is not abundant throughout the summer months. Most experts suggest that even baby tortoises should be hibernated right from their first winter, (most agree a short hibernation 6-8 weeks is ideal) this should be preceded by a starvation period of approx 2-3 weeks in order to clear the stomach contents. Weight should be checked on a regular basis prior to and during hibernation, any drastic (above 5%) loss should trigger the responsible owner to wake the tortoise and over winter it. If natural foods are not available then the favoured substitutes are romaine lettuce, kale, spring greens, watercress and similar high fibre, low protein foods – no individual dietary constituent should be concentrated on, variety is of utmost importance. Tomatoes, Iceberg lettuce, cucumber and fruit should NOT be given except as very occasional treats. All cultivated foods that are used should be double dosed with calcium supplements to try to avoid any calcium deficiencies; extra vigilance is needed when an un-natural diet is supplied. For its safety a baby tortoise should always be provided with a Tortoise table. UVB Lighting – ‘natural’ light is needed to encourage calcium absorption. Basking Lamp – a simple spot light can be used. Background temperature of at least 17°C (if indoors in a centrally heated house room temperature should be ok) Hiding places such as half plant pots, cork, caves. Sensible substrate – newspaper good for newly acquired specimens, not very natural though, and should be replaced with a multi substrate terrain including soil, sand, rocks, live plants etc when practical. A shallow water dish that the tortoises can easily climb in and out of. A source of calcium should be ALWAYS available – e.g. cuttlefish bone, Calcium powder. On hot days even baby tortoises can be allowed outside, care must be taken to protect your charge from both adverse weather, and predation. To achieve this an equivalent of a rabbit run can be used, the construction should be such that the bottom three inches are solid wood, the rest of the sides and the top can be fine (max ½ inch) netting, a shelter should be provided which is wind proof and ideally a basking area should be provided such as a glass covered area to concentrate the sunlight can achieve this, and/or a spot lamp mounted in the run. Your tortoise cannot share this run with any other animals, or any other species of tortoise. Care should be taken with the set-up that the tortoise cannot burrow under any part of the housing and escape into the rest of your garden as either, you wont be able to find the tortoise, someone else will find your tortoise or a predator –like next doors cat – will find your tortoise. YOU’RE TORTOISE AND THE LAW In the UK (and Europe) there are a few laws relating to your baby tortoise. If you got it from a reputable source then you will have a yellow licence called an article 10 from the DEFRA, which should state that the tortoise needs to be micro-chipped when it achieves a plastron length of 100mm, this law is designed to protect the wild populations from depletion by illegal taking from the wild, and may well save several wild populations. The microchip is the size of a large cooked piece of rice and is implanted by using an absolutely massive needle; it is implanted in the rear left leg and may be one of several makes. Any vet can supply, and some can even fit these devices. The recommended types are Avid –designed for Bird use, and TROVAN- multi use (zoos often use them). The process although it looks horrible does not seem to unduly stress the tortoises. And has the added benefit of making your tortoise identifiable should it ever become lost, or stolen. If you obtained your tortoise from someone other than a reputable breeder, and did not get paperwork for your tortoise then if you bought it, rather than being given it, both you and your supplier were breaking the law. Two species of tortoise are exempt from paperwork to date in the UK these are the Horsefields and the Red Foot Tortoise. Unlicensed tortoises can be GIVEN away, and with a donation letter it is possible for the new keeper to get breeding paperwork, but this will not allow the tortoise to be sold or traded. If adult tortoises are kept and have been kept since prior to the trade restrictions being applied it is possible to get licenses from the DEFRA, using the correct procedures, forms etc. Anyone breeding tortoises should make all efforts to obtain licences for their adult tortoises, and therefore licence any babies produced. If you have tortoises which have come from the wild after the import restrictions were imposed or whose history can not be tracked then buying or selling of the tortoise should not be undertaken, again these can be given away, and the recipient can apply for breeding paperwork. If conservation of the species is your concern then it may be worth donating the tortoise to a zoo, other organisation or private breeder who is actively breeding tortoises, although most organisations and zoos are not attempting to breed from the tortoises in their care, except for very rare varieties such as the Egyptian tortoise. There are also a few ´rescue´ groups around the country who have licensed breeding groups of tortoises who may be able to give more advice on re-homing (http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/cheloniauk/Rehome.htm), acquiring mates for your tortoises, or accepting tortoises into their own collections for breeding on either loan or a permanent basis.