The mistakes made by most people hibernating many
(and unfortunately still a percentage today) were to either:
(1) Hibernate a tortoise that was suffering from an
illness or is under weight.
Like the rest of a tortoise's metabolism the immune system
also dips when hibernating.
Any slight ailment that the tortoise may have will
only get worse when it hasn't got it's normal
aggressive immune system that a
warm, active tortoise has.
A Hermanns tortoise who is under weight re: the
'Jacksons ratio' should not be hibernated.
An under weight tortoise may be
a sign of an undetected illness or has simply not put
on enough fat reserves to
carry it over the hibernation period.
(2) Feed the tortoise just prior to hibernation.
A tortoises metabolism when in a state of hibernation is
almost completely shut down,
its heartbeat slows down to virtually nil, its
senses shut off and its bodily functions also
cease including digestion this is
the key factor here. Any food which is therefore inside
the tortoise's gastric
tract will not be digested and simply rots.
This in turn causes severe internal
problems from the gasses produced from the rotting food.
(3) Hibernate at temperatures above 10*c
A tortoise has an inbuilt mechanism which tells the tortoise
to wake up when
the surrounding temperature reaches 10*c. In their natural
environment they will have
buried into the ground where the temperature remains
a fairly constant 3 to 7*c over the
winter period, only reaching 10*c with the
onset of Spring. At 10*c a chemical reaction
happens inside the tortoise a
massive release of glucose from the liver glycogen is released
and flushed into the blood stream. This
gives the tortoise an initial energy boost sufficient for
it to start moving,
basking and eating again. However a tortoise has only so much of
boosting product available, so when in artificial hibernating situations where
temperature is often allowed to rise to 10*c and above the tortoise will
have to use up it's
supply and will be lifeless on awakening.
(4) Hibernate at temperatures that drop below 0*c
Tortoises subjected to temperatures of 0*c or below will
literally freeze to death.
Even in the best cases the tortoise will end up being
blind due to the fluid in the eyes freezing.
(5) Not offer protection against predators