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Aged Tortoises - How Did 'they' Do It?


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#1 Rue

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 10:03 PM

As I read through various care sheets, anecdotes, research papers, etc., I find myself wondering about certain things.
 
It seems that tortoise keeping has made some relatively recent headway - for the better - and I think there was probably a very bad period of tortoise-care guidelines offered in the late 1960s- 1970s...
 
Regardless - there are some OLD tortoises out there.
 
The current oldest is Jonathon (Seychelles giant tortoise) at 183:

http://www.livescien...est-animal.html

A very old Hermann's died recently in Britain:

Thomas - aged 130 in 2012 (died of a rat bite)...

http://www.telegraph...h-birthday.html

There's Tommy (aged 116 in 2014)

http://www.thesun.co...-the-blitz.html

 

So my question is:  How much of this is due to instinctively good husbandry?  Pure luck?  Good tortoise genes?  I realise the animals I posted are examples of the exceptions...but still - given what we know now, compared to what we knew then - obviously some people were providing good conditions for the animals all along.

 

Which makes me wonder?  Is what we are doing now all good?  Are we overthinking care?  Bubble-wrapping?  Some of what I'm reading is running the gamut from appallingly poor care (did NO one Google anything ever?) to what I call OCD care (OMG!  My enclosure is 2" too narrow and 3" too short!  Is my tortoise going to die?).
 



#2 wizzasmum

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 10:36 PM

The reason that many tortoises survived so long is that they were most likely in gardens that were sheltered, south facing and probably had neglected areas where the tortoises could find an appropriate diet, apart from the general lettuce and tomatoes provided by the owners. It often happens that when an owner dies or moves house, the tortoise will suffer as what was probably classed as good care in his past suddenly becomes not so good due to a different aspect or planting of a garden. I have a hermanni female that came to me years ago as an already elderly old lady. She had been kept in her own greenhouse and fed organic lettuce and tomatoes since before the Second World War. The owner thought this was optimum care. She did have the run of the garden too and had been adult when imported, which helps, as an already formed adult tortoise can withstand a lot more incorrect 'care' than a hatchling, which would certainly have died under the same regime. She was not 100% fit at the time of being handed over, but with a change of diet, additional heat etc she picked up and now lays eggs each year too. Old Tilly is now estimated to be over a hundred years old. Genes and luck don't really come into the equation as tortoises are still cold blooded reptiles with the need for a core temp of 30 degrees approx, to feed, digest and thrive. Many tortoises came into the country years ago as adults and because they died thirty years later, it was assumed that it was old age, which was often not the case sadly. Yes there is OCD care in the tortoise world and these pets very often need a vets help at some point in their lives, due to not being allowed to be tortoises. The key, I have found is to offer supplementary heat and give them the choice. They know much better than we do how to thermoregulate their temps and humidity.

#3 Beermat89

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 10:42 PM

Hi Rue,
Yes i do agree that some people do mommy cuddle their tortoises but do remember that tortoises are not native to this country and can not live over here with out some help from us,these exceptions were just lucky,most proberly had a well shelter,drained south facing gardens which could support tortoise to survive not thrive in this country but dont forget most torts from this period didnt make to the age of 20 which would of been thousands,i have a 65-70ish year old spur thigh that my dad has for me due to unforseen surcumstances but i resuced this tortoise from an elderly gentlemen who could no long care for her but she had a very good positioned garden to why she has survived so long.most torts died down to no knowlege of hibernation back then but now theres a very low number compared to then that die over winter with this knowledge
Regards matt

#4 Beermat89

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 10:46 PM

Sorry me and Sue must of been typing and the same time lil

#5 gizmosmum

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 07:52 AM

Good that you both gave same opinion independently though.

#6 Rue

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 02:40 PM

I like multiple opinions! :)

 

I hadn't considered that the older ones would have been adults when imported...makes perfect sense. 

 

I wish Tilly many more happy years!  I find it very inspiring to hear about such animals...and how much their care-givers are willing to provide for them.



#7 wizzasmum

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 05:33 PM

Yes, sales of young tortoises is a relatively new thing and sadly many still don't make it, especially when purchased from pet outlets, which is where the most bad advice comes from. Tilly was originally kept away from my other tortoises, due to her advancing age, on the advice of a well known organisation. Nobody reckoned on the sense of smell though, she knew they were there and they knew there was a new tortoise in the area. She became so stressed trying to get to them, despite not having seen another tortoise for many years. I decided the kindest option was to let her join the group and she never looked back. It was several years before she started to lay eggs, which were misshaped for a couple of years, then she had her first baby, Albert. Now she has babies every year lol. It would be nice to know exactly how old she is, but we can only guess.
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