14 Year Old Sulcata Only Weighs 19 Pounds

Jay Rennemeyer

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I've had Cecil since she was a hatchling. She has always eaten like a pig. She spends the summer outdoors in my backyard grazing. She's 14 years old now, but she only weighs 19 pounds. She didn't have any growth spurts or slow-downs, and she has never been lethargic or hyperactive. The only thing I can think of is that she might be a runt. Is there such a thing as a runt in sulcatas? (The attached photo is of her being weighed in September of 2012 -- she was 18 pounds.)
 

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Jay Rennemeyer

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FYI: In the picture I high-centered her on a can of corn when I weighed her because she kept crawling off the scale.
 

Tom

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She was probably raised on the dry routine. This can stunt them. We know better now.
 

Jay Rennemeyer

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So, you mean the non-drinking kind of dry? During the winter she gets an assortment of green/red/romaine lettuce with the occasional shredded carrots and a rare banana. During the summer it's all Kentucky bluegrass with occasional carrots and a few flowers with residual water from the sprinkler system. I'm still perplexed.
 

mike taylor

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They need water at all times . In winter put a water bowl in with him . In summer have him a soaking pond .
 

Tom

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Sorry Jay. I have to remind myself that people are not psychic...

In the old days, the way everyone was told to raise sulcatas was hot and dry. Typically on rabbit pellets, often with no water bowl and weekly soaks. Many of them died from this. Some survived, but were stunted. Others made it through okay somehow or other.

We now know that this is all wrong and it goes completely against nature. You see for 8-9 months of the year it is hot and dry in African sulcata territory over there, but guess what. Adults are all underground in damp humid burrows during that time, and babies hatch at the start of the 3-4 month rainy season. There is unlimited green growing food everywhere, there are puddles and marshes everywhere for drinking at will, it is hot all the time, and it is very humid during those 3-4 months. For decades we have been raising sulcata babies all wrong and simulating the WRONG conditions.

Small ones like yours and my adults that grew up during that time are the result of this "dry routine". As opposed to my 30-40 pound four year olds that were raises with the "wet routine".

Here is a thread explaining it better:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/the-end-of-pyramiding.15137/

And another:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/hatchling-failure-syndrome.23493/
 
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Maggie Cummings

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I also give her a pile of good grass hay that she can feed free from. I gave Bob a big pile of locally grown grass hay in his shed, he's 16 and weighs 150 pounds this year...I collect dandelions daily for him in dandelion season, now the grape leafs are ready so he gets those too,, so that's a third feeding he gets during the day, and sometime he gets a zucchini. I've been waiting for Tom or Dean to tell me I am feeding him too much. He's got decent grass to graze on too...I 'might' be feeding too much...maybe, sorta
 

Tom

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I've been waiting for Tom or Dean to tell me I am feeding him too much. He's got decent grass to graze on too...I 'might' be feeding too much...maybe, sorta

Grass, hay, dandelions, grape leaves and an occasional bit of zucchini for a mature adult...? No such thing as too much of those foods as far as I'm concerned. Especially with a good size enclosure and plenty of exercise.

I tried the "feed 'em light and grow them slow thing". It doesn't do anything but stunt them and make them super hungry all the time. Hungry to the point where they eat things they shouldn't. No thank you on that one.

We agree on all the points to raising a healthy tortoise. Good diet, exercise, sunshine (or adequate indoor UV), adequate temps and humidity, and hydration.
 

Jay Rennemeyer

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Interesting. It's still odd that -- even when water was available, she never appeared to drink any.

Cecil is kind of picky about food. She will eat grass, but only when it's connected to the ground. I've given her fresh-cut grass in her pen and she ignores it. I guess she likes tearing at it. She won't eat it if it's longer than about 2" either. She doesn't like dandelions at all, and she won't eat any dry grass or hay like Timothy grass. I've considered growing a patch of lawn in my house so she has something to graze on in the winter.

As for fruits and vegetables, she'll eat almost anything I give her except mustard greens and broccoli, and I don't blame her on the broccoli -- that stuff is nasty.

Thanks for the info everybody! I'll see if I can un-stunt her.
 

Jay Rennemeyer

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I did a search for the old bulletin board rec.pets.herp and found it. Sure enough, one of the first few posts I found from the '90s says they live in arid deserts and get most of their water from vegetation. Live and learn.
 

Tom

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I did a search for the old bulletin board rec.pets.herp and found it. Sure enough, one of the first few posts I found from the '90s says they live in arid deserts and get most of their water from vegetation. Live and learn.

Since you brought this up, it is worth some discussion...

Sulcatas DO live in an arid part of the world... for 8 or 9 months of the year, BUT (There are two points to this big "BUT".) #1. They live underground in damp, humid burrows for that entire time. In fact sulcatas spend 95-98% of their time underground in the wild over their lifespan. During the dry season they do get all their moisture from the foods they eat. They drag vegetation underground at the end of the rainy season and subsist on that for the dry season, which brings me to point #2. THE RAINY SEASON. For 3-4 months of the year it rains over there. It is hot, very humid, marshy in some areas, puddles for drinking everywhere, and there is green growing food everywhere. WHY is this life saving critical time of year IGNORED in every old book, care sheet, vet text book, and everywhere else. It is the MOST important time of the year for a sulcata, but it is not even mentioned in most references to their care or their native environment. THIS is the time of year when babies hatch. Babies get lots of hydration and humidity for their first few months in the wild. When I have explained my "wet" routine methods in the past, I invariably get asked, "Well who soaks them everyday in the wild?" In fact, if you care to spend the time searching for old posts of when I joined this forum, I was actually asked this question HERE on this forum in early 2010. Babies are walking through warm puddles all day everyday when they hatch in the wild. Mother Nature soaks them everyday in the wild.

Live and learn indeed, my friend.
 

Tom

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Interesting. It's still odd that -- even when water was available, she never appeared to drink any.

Sometimes they don't. There can be a variety of reasons why this might be. One main reason that I (we) see frequently here on this forum is unsuitable water bowls. If a tortoise doesn't feel comfortable about the placement, size, depth, height, and traction of the water vessel the keeper is offering, they won't go near it. Take that same tortoise out on the lawn and run the garden hose until you get a good puddle and that same tortoise will drinks its stomach full for 10 minutes as if it hasn't seen water for years. It doesn't matter if WE like the water bowl and think its good, it matters if the tortoise likes it. I suspect your tortoise didn't.

Daily soaks for babies eliminates the risk of a tortoise not drinking for whatever reason it might choose not to. I soak my older ones once or twice a week in hot dry weather, less often in cooler weather. They always have water available, and they drink it.
 

Tom

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Cecil is kind of picky about food. She will eat grass, but only when it's connected to the ground. I've given her fresh-cut grass in her pen and she ignores it. I guess she likes tearing at it. She won't eat it if it's longer than about 2" either. She doesn't like dandelions at all, and she won't eat any dry grass or hay like Timothy grass. I've considered growing a patch of lawn in my house so she has something to graze on in the winter.

As for fruits and vegetables, she'll eat almost anything I give her except mustard greens and broccoli, and I don't blame her on the broccoli -- that stuff is nasty.

Have you seen this thread yet?
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/

It might give you some ideas. Read through the whole thread.
 
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