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Behavioral enrichment?

Discussion in 'General Tortoise Discussion' started by RandomWiktor, May 26, 2010.

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  1. RandomWiktor

    RandomWiktor New Member 5 Year Member

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    I recently came into posession of a stray (more likely abandoned) sulcuta. I am not sure if I intend to keep it or not, but so long as I have it, I'd like to make sure it has a suitable quality of life. I've provided it a decent sized enclosure for its size, deep substrate to dig in, a hide, plenty of food, and intend on taking it outside to graze whenever weather permits (I had it out today for several hours and it loved it!). However, is there any sort of behavioral enrichment I could/should provide it? I know some of my other reptiles like things such as smell tubes, objects they can manipulate, novel items to investigate, etc. What would be a good tortoise equivalent of these sort of items? Do they like a ball to play with like Tegus, or no? Would stuffing a piece of cholla wood with grass and letting it chomp on the grass hanging out of the wood be exciting? Do they like some low wood or rocks to clamber over? Do they like having their enclosure re-arranged or are they lovers of stability?

    Any input much appreciated. I know the basics on care but my knowledge of tortoise behavior is virtually non-existant.
  2. Neal

    Neal Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    This is actually a very interesting topic, I would like to see what other people come up with.

    In my experience I will say that if you throw a ball or any type of toy in with your tortoise they wouldn't even look at it. What I like to do in my enclosures is build up a mound as high as possible. This provides good exercise for the tortoise, helps with regulating body temperature by providing a greater area of sun exposure, and creates a good possible nesting site for females. Sulcatas like to dig, so if you placed a log or rock in the enclosure it would likely dig a hole around it, so be sure it's secure enough not to fall and injure the tortoise if he dug under it.

    I'm not aware of any behavioral studies done on tortoises, such as Pavlov's dogs or Skinner's pigeons, but I think tortoises have the ability to learn certain behaviors and as such would benefit from behavior enrichment. My suggestion is to get creative and let us know if you find anything they seem to enjoy!
  3. dmmj

    dmmj The member formerly known as captain awesome Moderator 10 Year Member! 5 Year Member

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    A friend of mine who lives about 5 miles away or so , his sulc loves to play with a giant red ball, he will chase it all over the yard.
  4. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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    My sister in Oregon has a large sulcata, Bob, that pushes and "plays" with different objects. He especially loves to knock over cinderblocks and to tear down light fixtures. Just do a "bob" search and you'll see what I mean.
  5. terryo

    terryo Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    There are so many Bob stories and they will show you a Sully with a great personality.
  6. Shelly

    Shelly Active Member 10 Year Member! 5 Year Member

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    There was a thread about a Sulcata that would hump a football helmet. That's enriching, I suppose.
    paarthurnax.tortoise likes this.
  7. Madkins007

    Madkins007 Well-Known Member Moderator 10 Year Member!

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    Without touching on species, some common tortoise enrichments include:

    HABITAT-
    - different substrates- sandy areas, mud wallows, loose stone
    - hills, slopes, piles, etc.
    - dug-out caves, brush piles, different hides (A brush pile is my Red-foot herds favorite 'toy')
    - live plants as shelter or food
    - 'hidden areas' only accessible through a tunnel or smallish opening
    - water features, appropriate to the animal's size and ability- like creeks, ponds, wide dishes, drips, or misters
    - add a second level and access ramp(s)

    DIETARY-
    - grow plants to eat, or plants that will drop fruit/leaves into the habitat
    - hide foods in unusual places or ways
    - offer unusual foods whole- depending on the species, try corn on the cob, melons, green peppers, squash, etc. You may need to break thick rinds a bit to get them started
    - plant things that attract edible bugs, especially butterflies
    - offer something really unusual but appropriate, like horned melon, weird edible mushrooms, uncommon greens, etc. (Since we are rarely doing it, we can bend some of the rules a bit)

    OTHER-
    - toys, most commonly things that roll and are brightly colored
    - cage mates of other species that can safely share the habitat (This takes a lot of research for most species. Some examples would be hermit crabs, anoles, and geckos for Red-foot Tortoises)
    - use operant conditioning to teach it simple tricks. It takes time, but is very possible. Training to come to a big vibration, like pounding on a stake, can make it easier to find them when you need them and may even help them show up if they escape
  8. RandomWiktor

    RandomWiktor New Member 5 Year Member

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    Awesome, these are all great suggestions. Thanks so much!
  9. jackrat

    jackrat Active Member 5 Year Member

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    Mine work rubics cubes!
  10. pugsandkids

    pugsandkids Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Bob lives in Oregon!?
  11. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    MUD HOLE!!!!!!!!!!
  12. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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    Yup! Its where people don't tan, they rust! And its pretty hard to keep a big tortoise warm and happy.
  13. moswen

    moswen New Member 5 Year Member

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    Haha that's awesome shelly!
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