Just about everyone has heard of Tortoises but no one really knows anything about them or even what they are. Tortoises are fast becoming the most endangered of Reptiles and many people will buy them as children's Pets not knowing what they are in for in terms of Tortoise care and commitment.
Exactly what is a Tortoise? Is it a Turtle? Well, a Tortoise is classified as a "Chelonian" or a reptile with a shell that is completely terrestrial. They lack any webbing between their toes and with few exceptions are vegetarians. The upper shell or carapace is highly domed on all but one piece of the tortoise. The lower shell is called a Plastron. Because of shrinking habitats and over-collecting for food and other commercial reasons Tortoises are in trouble all over the world and are protected under international cities regulations. There are about 40 species of Tortoises in the world today but the types that we will look at are the...
1.Sulcata Tortoise from North Africa.
2.Leopard Tortoise from East Africa.
3.Red Foot Tortoise from South America.
4.Star Tortoise from India.
When buying a Tortoise as a pet always, buy a captive bred one born here in the United States. There are still some wild caught Tortoises offered for sale and the general rule is, if it cost less than $200.00 dollars it was caught in the wild. Wild caught Tortoises are almost always carrying internal parasites and bacteria, and are even sometimes dying when you buy them. Plus, for every wild caught Tortoise that is sold in the United States, another one is caught in its native habitat to replace it, thus further putting pressure on the survival of the species. Star Tortoise
Fortunately there are numbers of captive bred tortoises offered for sale in Pet stores. One thing to take into consideration is that some of these guys grow to considerable size. Few people have enough space in their house to hold a full-grown Sulcata Tortoise. You would be better off in this case to get a Red Foot Tortoise as a pet.
The housing of a pet Tortoise is specific yet simple. A large glass aquarium works best with a thick layer of Aspen bedding at the bottom. The bedding is important, as it has to be something that is harmless to the Tortoise if by any chance is eaten.
If you cannot get Aspen bedding you can try Alfalfa pellets or even Newspaper. Stay away from wood chip, gravel, or Astroturf. Tortoises are never in the same place twice and it is important to keep the tank very clean washing it out once a week.
Tortoises drink a lot and they are not really built to be able to crawl up to a water dish and stick their head in and drink. In nature they would crawl into a puddle and drink. So we duplicate this by putting a shallow basin of warm water 3 times a week. After they drink, they will usually defecate in the water so that helps to keep their cage clean.
Tortoises have evolved to consume large quantities of high fiber vegetation and that is what we should give them in captivity. They need lots of calcium to grow strong shells. Vitamin D3 is also needed to their diet.
Sulcata Tortoise Years ago we used to feed a baby Tortoise monkey chow and dog food as per its high protein content, the Tortoise grew rapidly. The rapid growth rate caused deformities. The correct diet should be a combination of at least 3 bitter type greens such as Kale, Chicory, and etc. Cut them up into small pieces and keep them in the refrigerator. Then, before you feed your Tortoise just dust the calcium and vitamin mixture onto the greens. You can give them some fruit as an occasional treat and this Is liked best by forest Tortoise such as a Red Foot. But fruit should not be a major part of their diet.
Another important factor in Tortoises husbandry is light and Heat. Tortoises need Daytime temperatures of 85 degrees Fahrenheit with a cool down period at night. The heat is best provided with special heat lamps that also produce full spectrum lighting. If your house is cool at night you should also invest in an under tank heater that goes on the bottom of the Tortoises tank to keep the bedding warm.
Leopard Tortoise A well cared for Tortoise very rarely gets sick, but if you think your tortoises is sick, then it is and it will not get better on its own. Find a D.V.M. ASAP who knows about reptiles and bring your Tortoise to their office right away. Sick Tortoises can usually be cured if you do not delay in going to a D.V.M..
So you see how Tortoises are fascinating creatures that are very appreciative of our care. In the far East Tortoises are kept as household pets because it is believed that Tortoises will bring good luck and Longevity to a household. This belief is based on the fact that Tortoises can live for as long as 100 years. Also before you buy a Tortoise, take a minute to see if you are prepared to house a very large Reptile for your whole Life? Plan things ahead and do not be an irresponsible pet owner.