How to Care for Your Tortoise
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Tortoises were for many years kept as children’s pets; holes were drilled into their shells to tether them and because few people knew how to care for them, most did not survive hibernation. Nowadays with advanced knowledge of how to care for these exotic pets this is no longer the case. The importation of wild tortoises is now banned and your pet tortoise will be a captive breed regulated by DEPFRA. It is a requirement that tortoises with an under measurement of over 100cm are micro chipped by a vet and the tortoise you buy will come with a certificate to prove it is captive breed. When it reaches the optimum size it is your responsibility to get it chipped. Your vet can also be a good source of information on the hibernation habits of your tortoise and should be consulted from the moment you acquire one.
How to care for your tortoise begins with its housing needs. It is beneficial to keep your tortoise outdoors as these reptiles need fresh air and natural light to be in the best of health. A secure large pen is the best option with a box for the tortoise to shelter from the sun or to retire to at night. As large a pen as you can manage is best planted with non-poisonous plants and a surround that is tortoise proof. They can climb very well and will burrow at alarming speed so bear this in mind. The idea of a slowcoach is a bit of a myth as tortoises can be quite speedy when they choose to be. Test your pen out on a hot day when your tortoise will be very active and see if it can escape. Free access to a covered area like a greenhouse or poly tunnel would be perfect but failing this, small new york yankees zip up hoodie kennel type housing would suffice containing hay bedding for comfort. During bad weather, particularly in winter, when sunlight is low a well-lit inside area is beneficial and a UVB light may be considered.
A fresh clean supply of water must always be available and the best time to feed your tortoise is at the hottest time of the day. They are a Mediterranean species that thrive in hot conditions so always bear this in mind. An assorted offering of wild flowers is perfect for the tortoise such as dandelion, white clover, chicory, heartease and sow thistle will be appreciated. You can buy wild flower seed mixtures to grow in your own garden so that you have homegrown feed for your tortoise when it matures. Care must be taken that no poisonous species are in your tortoise’s enclosure and remove anything you are not positive about. They are browsing animals and this is the most natural way to feed them although they will like a bit of salad food as a treat. All food must be very fresh and anything not eaten should be removed before it can become sour.
Good health is an important aspect of learning to care for your tortoise but maintaining the reptile in optimum condition is not complicated. Tortoises enjoy a nice warm bath but always supervise bath times. Do not allow them to over eat as they will become sluggish and their digestive system will suffer. It is important to set up a regular worming schedule with your vet and check with him about supplements, especially calcium, which your pet may need.
There are conflicting views as to whether or not to control hibernation and certainly for the first year this is a good practice. After that your vet should be consulted as to whether your tortoise is fit enough to be hibernated or not and his advice will be invaluable in terms of the best way to effect this.
The commitment you make in caring for your tortoise could span 50 to 100 years if you provide a healthy diet and environment.
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