Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to look after a tortoise-pet

(please note, this post has not been edited, but at the risk of loosing it I have added it to the blog at this time)

The following tortoises may be considered for adoption as pets.

  1. A tortoise hatched or reared in captivity
  2. Injured tortoises who will not survive in the wild

Considerations when keeping a tortoise.

  • In the wild tortoises eat a variety of food.
  • They will get water from succulents, and by sucking it up from wet soil or from a pool of water.
  • Their favorite food is lettuce leaves, but cabbage will also be eaten. Cut up fruit and vegetables will also be popular.
  • Mountain tortoises require a lot of food, and it may be necessary to buy whole heads of cabbage.
  • When it will not be possible to feed the tortoises for a day or two, whole heads of cabbage can be put out for them. Cabbage lasts longer than lettuce.

  • Shallow dishes of water can be left around the garden for them.
  • A paint roller tray that is shallow on the one side is an ideal solution
  • A shallow saucer will be big enough for baby tortoise.
  • Place pebbles in deep bowls to allow a tortoise to get out if it falls in.
  • To prevent baby tortoises from falling into the water, loose sand can be put into the saucer.
  • The tortoise will suck the wet soil.
  • Tortoises prefer drinking water sprayed directly onto the soil by a garden hose.
  • You will have to be patient, because they drink for a long time.


  • Make sure they have a dry spot where they can retire for the night.
  • The tortoise will look for a dry spot where it can hibernate during wet weather.
  • Do not water the area where the tortoises sleep prior to rainy weather.
  • Once a tortoise find a suitable spot it will return to that same spot every night.
  • Water your garden in the morning so the ground can dry out before they dig into their night spot.
  • Tortoises know when rainy weather approaches. They will look for a dry protective spot that will protect them from adverse weather conditions. Get to know where your tortoise hibernates and refrain from watering or disturbing that area.
Laying eggs:

  • Female tortoises will look for a dry area with loose soil to lay her eggs. She will look for an area that is not threatened by the roots of nearby plants and that will be able to signal when the rainy weather starts.
  • She is not likely to lay her eggs in an area that is being watered frequently.
  • If an egg needs to be moved, do it within the first twenty four hours.
  • Put it in a loose sandy spot and allow it to be open to environmental conditions.
  • The weather will signal to the egg when there will likely be lots of seedlings to eat.

What to do when a baby tortoise is found in a garden.

  • Try and give it an environment that is as close to their normal habitat.
  • Because they are so small they will have to be placed in a where they will not come under foot.
  • Paint a small spot on the top of its shell, using nail varnish or white correction fluid works well.
  • Mark the first tortoise with one dot and the second one with two dots etc.
  • The dots make it easier to find them and to identify them while they are small.

  • The first thing a baby tortoise wants to do after birth is to drink water.
  • Give your baby tortoise a space of wet ground as well as dry ground.
  • They will look for shelter and try and hide from you, so it is a good idea to stay out of sight as much as possible until the tortoise is settled in.
  • A tortoise will look for a similar habitat as the one he was born in to hibernate.
  • Since baby tortoises are born just before the rainy season, they will look for a space to hide as soon as possible.
My baby tortoise nursery
  • I normally create an area with dry leaves, and put a cover over it so it remains dry during the rain.
  • I also create a little sand pit as well as a few rocks stacked up. I would also bury some pot plants, like ferns.
  • I would also put out a few shallow saucers of water (and pebbles or sand)
  • The baby tortoise will have his choice of space.
  • Baby tortoises love to eat young shoots which comes up after a good rainy spell.
  • I plant alfalfa or other seeds especially for them to eat.
  • I would cordon off an area about 3x2 meters or bigger for them.
  • They remain there until they show signs that they want to break out.
  • Normally after six months or later.
  • Tortoises mostly die within the first two years of life.
  • Thereafter they are very tough and can live for a long time.

Deathtraps in domestic gardens:

  • The use of insecticides and snail bait.
  • Tortoises, especially baby tortoises ere very easily poisoned,
  • Swimming pools. A tortoise falling into a swimming pool will drown.
  • Lawn mowing.
  • Bits of plastic lying around. They will eat it and can get choked.
  • Loose wires or nylon cord. They get entangled in it.
  • The use of sprinklers. A tortoise needs to be able hibernate away from sprinklers or regular watering.

Sun and shade:

A tortoise seeks the sunshine on cold and wet days and the shade during the hot times of the days. Baby tortoises can burn to death if left in the hot sun without shade.

Breeding tortoises in domestic gardens:
  • A tortoise will look for a dry spot that is subjected to normal environmental conditions to lay its eggs.
  • The start of the rainy season will signal to the egg when it is time for the tortoise to hatch.
  • Artificial watering of the area where the eggs are laid can result in the baby tortoise hatching prematurely. Such a tortoise will require special water and feeding to survive.

  • One of the first things a new hatching looks for, after hatching, is a good drink before they try and find cover.
  • The ground needs to be wet initially then they look for a dry spot
  • Baby tortoises in a domestic garden need to be protected from other domestic animals and pedestrians.
  • It is very difficult to see a baby tortoise and is therefore necessary to keep them in a special safe place in the garden.
  • They will need to be dry during wet weather, yet have access to water and food.
  • They need to be able to warm up in the sun and find shade from the heat.
  • After about a year they will be ready to join the big tortoises.

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