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Keeping Tortoises Together.


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#1 mildredsmam

mildredsmam

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Posted 28 May 2019 - 05:50 AM

“I thought this was just a little bash!” No, actually, this is a severe injury that will always be visible even if the wound dries up eventually – and the animal will be lucky if her internal tissues and organs aren’t so damaged as to result in sepsis and possibly a very painful death. “I thought they can’t feel through their shell” – no again, tortoise shells are living tissue with nerves and blood supply, and are very sensitive to touch, injury and infection.

This little 10-year-old Thb female was kept together with two males of similar age by her owner. For several months, they were bashing her, forcing her into corners and relentlessly hitting the old wounds – can you imagine the pain and terror this little animal felt? Her owner regularly disinfected the bleeding shell – as if that would excuse this kind of abuse, letting this happen. She was actually breaking the law – the Animal Welfare Act (2006) states that animals in our care have to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Female tortoises know very well when their male pursuers are coming to get them again, they panic and try to run away from the attack they know will happen, but in an enclosure this is not possible, the males will get them. Lazy, unthinking owners often use the excuse: “it’s natural for males to pursue females” but do not want to acknowledge that in the wild females can get away – tortoises will meet up, there may be mating, then the female goes her own way in a vast terrain with lots of hides – that’s natural - but not if we keep males and females together in usually quite small enclosures. Apart from the incredible stress and pain that these females are suffering, they often cannot eat sufficient amounts of food, and they often experience egg retention problems, as they are not able to nest in a stress-free environment.

So, what to do? New owners of Mediterranean tortoises who are buying or taking on several juveniles, must be aware that these animals will change their behaviour when they reach sexual maturity, and even males can often not be kept together. In extreme cases, males can even kill a weaker one. So these animals must usually be kept separately, each with their own large indoor and outdoor space, lamps and heating, or may have to be rehomed. Other species of tortoise may be less aggressive, so know what you’re getting and have a plan in mind of how to change the accommodation if necessary.

There is no excuse – we MUST keep our tortoises stress- and painfree, it’s our responsibility and, surely, should be guided by our humanity. Please share this with anyone who is thinking of getting tortoises – thank you!

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