ÔĽŅ Caresheets

Captive Care Sheet
Mediterranean Tortoise care sheet, a guide to getting started.
Distribution:
Juvenile Mediterranean Tortoises. Testudo marginata, T. hermanni, T. graeca. The Marginated Tortoise is the species I keep and breed regularly and is one of the largest of the Mediterranean tortoises. I think it is also the most impressive of these tortoises. They are found in Greece in the Peloponnese and along coastal areas of the mainland. My first Marginata originated from Sardinia where they were introduced. I also keep just a pair of T. hermanni boettgeri and 2 of their offspring. This species and its subspecies have wide distributions, Spain , France , Italy , Yugoslavia, Albania , Romania , Greece and Turkey . The Greek Tortoise , T. graeca is despite its name not realy a European tortoise as it is mainly North African with just a few small populations in Southern Spain and the Balearics which are very close to the African Mainland.
Housing:
These tortoises need a dry sunny environment. Day temperatures of 23-40˚C and night temperatures of 18-23˚C. The area should always provide shade from extremes of heat. When the weather conditions are suitable they should be placed outside in an escape proof enclosure. Some shade should be provided. A cardboard box with an entrance hole cut into the side will be adequate. Wooden boxes are better and more permanent. The enclosure may need to be covered in wire screen to protect against cats and dogs as well as wild animals and birds. Crows have been known to take baby tortoises. When the weather is cool they will need to be kept inside with back up light and heat. An open topped vivarium with an overhead basking light and a full spectrum UV tube is the best set up. The electricís can be suspended on some type of overhead bracket or clamp. If a reflector is used this will greatly enhance the light and heat levels. It should be mentioned that these tubes only have about six months UV output when used on a daily basis, so should be changed regularly. When housed indoors coir is a useful substrate to keep your tortoises on. It is a chopped and composted bi-product of the coconut. It can be found in garden centres as a peat substitute. Keeping the coir slightly moist will improve the shell of your tortoise and avoid pyramiding of the shell. It is recommended that the youngsters are not hibernated for the first year or two. Once they have reached 3 inches, 7.5cms, carapace size then, provided they feel heavy bodied it will be safe to hibernate them for 2months or so.
Heating and Lighting:
See housing
Hibernation:
Hibernation. Tortoises should not be allowed to eat for several weeks before hibernation to ensure that their stomachs are empty and contain no undigested food. No tortoise that looks ill, with laboured breathing, runny nose or light in weight, should be hibernated. If healthy, tortoises should be placed in a frost-free area where the temperature remains above 3˚C and below 10˚C, (4-5˚C), ideally. A large wooden box with a slightly smaller box placed inside with polystyrene chips between the inner and outer box forms the basic container. The inner box is lined with 1inch polystyrene sheets and then filled with dry hay/straw, shredded newspaper or polystyrene chips. (Donít use the small beads). Check your petís weight before hibernation and regularly during, so as to make sure it is not losing more weight than it should. A little weight loss is normal due to water loss but large fluctuations are a danger signal. In these cases it may be necessary to warm up your pet and get it re-hydrated and feeding. Sometimes it is possible to obtain large polystyrene boxes that have been used for packing fruit and vegetables or delicate items that are susceptible to temperature fluctuations such as medical supplies. Tropical fish imports are a good source of these types of boxes. Often these shops will give them away or charge just a small amount for them. The same double layer system should still be used. Make sure a little ventilation is given for the hibernating animals and that the temperature is checked regularly. Especially during extra warm are cold spells of winter. Older animals can be allowed to hibernate in an unheated greenhouse where they have a deep area to bury into, of leafmould, peat and straw. Once they have dug in top up the area with more insulation of dry leaves and leafmould. Another method would be to build a double insulated house within the greenhouse of brick, thermolite blocks, or wood and polystyrene as described above. The same can be done in a large cold frame type of shelter. This can be insulated further when the animals have gone down for their autumn hibernation. If the entrance to the hibernation chamber has an insulated door this can then be closed for further protection.
Food and Water:
Food & water. Spring Greens, Lollo rossa, Endive, Radicchio, Corn salad (lambs lettuce), Rocket, Chinese cabbage, Parsley, finely shredded carrot, Water cress, Dandelion, Clover, Plantain, Convolvulous, Polygonum (Russian vine), Chick weed, Alpine plants (Adjuga, sedum etc.) Sprouted seeds, Alfalfa, Chopped hay, Small amounts of apple, red peppers, corgettes, and other fruit and veg may be added to the basic leaf mix occasionally, but no more than 30%. It is important that enough fibre is included in the diet. This can be helped by chopping up dried alfalfa and hay in a food blender, adding to the wet diet. The dry mix will tend to adhere to the fresh greens. A Calcium carbonate/phosphate powder 2/1 ratio is fine and a Nutrobal mix (50/50) could be dusted onto the food once a week. Calcium carbonate powder, can be dusted on to food daily. A shallow dish of water can be offered 2 or 3 times a week. This may or may not be used by the tortoises.
Reproduction:
Any other hints or tips:
Recommended books, Keeping and Breeding Tortoises in Captivity, A C Highfield. ISBN 1 872688 01 2 soft cover. 1990. Keeping and Breeding Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles, AC. Highfield. The author of these books also runs the Tortoise Trust which publishes a journal for members. There is also an excellent German publication which comes in an English version called Radiata, there are 4 volumes a year. It has numerous articles on tortoises and terrapins. It is part of the main German Herpetological Society, The DGHT, and there is also an English version of the main Journal in English. The cost for the Radiata journal only is 18 Euros plus postage. Postal address and Email Sabine Hofler-Thierfeldt, lm Bongert 11a, D-52428 Julich. s.thierfeldt@t-online.de
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