Grazing Aldabras

TortoiseDVM

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This is the third year Tico has shown increasing interest in breeding behavior. This year, he consistently found the correct side of her shell and is mounting more effectively. It will take more time, possibly decades, but it’s a good start for a young age.
 

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TortoiseDVM

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Last years bloopers...
 

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TortoiseDVM

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Last years pasture buddies- now waiting for him at the new property. Tico seemed to not mind as long as he thought he was center of attention.
 

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wellington

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Nice, but aren't you worried the zebras will hurt the torts? I sure wouldn't think that would be a good idea.
 

TortoiseDVM

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Nice, but aren't you worried the zebras will hurt the torts? I sure wouldn't think that would be a good idea.
Great question Wellington ( by the way great to see that you haven't changed a bit!)

Its human nature to fear what you don't understand. Zebras are grazing herbivores. They are a prey species with defense mechanisms of avoidance ( running away, the first choice ) or kicking ( reserved for when they cannot escape a threatening situation). If a zebra fears a tortoise, it will simply move away from it. The tortoise is unikely to run down or corner the zebra so kicking a tortoise is an unlikely behavior. In fact, as you can see in these pics these zebras were raised with my tortoises and do not fear them, or humans or their activities. As far as accidental injury such as stepping on a tortoise, these tortoises are too large to comfortably step on. The hoofs of horses, zebras, and donkeys have a hard outer keratin wall, however the sole is softer and very sensitive. Horses and zebras will go out of there way not to step on a small stone as its very uncomfortable on their sole- they avoid stepping on a large tortoise shell as well. The zebras have been rotated in my tortoise pastures for 3 years without incident and I don't plan on changing that :) Here are some pics of how comfortably close they can get to each other, however they are usually doing their own thing...

Dogs on the other hand, are more unpredictable- dogs bite out of fear, aggression, pain, jealousy, territory, teething, and play...
 

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wellington

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Glad to see you haven't changed either!
Glad they do well together. I know all about horses and horse hooves, had a few over the years and have felt them too. Not Zebras though. Usually the ones I have seen were in a zoo or on tv, of course wild. Usually crazy, running and kicking their heels up.
Yes, I would worry about the accident of kicking at a fly, being spooked and running crazy and stepping on a sleeping torts head, etc. Then again, if I were raising them myself, I would know more about their behavior and surroundings.
Btw, if you dont mind a question. Why do you have zebras? A love for them or do you have a small/large petting zoo? They are beautiful.
 

TortoiseDVM

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Glad to see you haven't changed either!
Glad they do well together. I know all about horses and horse hooves, had a few over the years and have felt them too. Not Zebras though. Usually the ones I have seen were in a zoo or on tv, of course wild. Usually crazy, running and kicking their heels up.
Yes, I would worry about the accident of kicking at a fly, being spooked and running crazy and stepping on a sleeping torts head, etc. Then again, if I were raising them myself, I would know more about their behavior and surroundings.
Btw, if you dont mind a question. Why do you have zebras? A love for them or do you have a small/large petting zoo? They are beautiful.
 

dd33

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Hi TortoiseDVM, have you had any issues with the tortoises eating the Zebra poop? Have you had problems with them trying to walk through the wire horse fencing?
We're on 10 acres and I am still trying to figure out our future plans for housing our 3 young Aldabras and hatchling Galapagos. The Aldabras are 3-4 years old now and weigh between 40 and 50lbs. Currently they are in a 16x16 enclosure but its time to expand again.
Have you ever moved the tortoises between the pastures on your property? I was wondering how they handle a change to the location of their night box. We have upgraded their enclosure on more than one occasion and it really seems to throw them for a loop with returning to their heated box every night.
 

TortoiseDVM

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Sure I can answer that question too, however the point of my update on tortoise forum was to share the story of these tortoises growing up over a longer period of time instead of the typical “I have a new tortoise post” but then disappear or “I’m top dog breeder/ dealer” post. The original photo with the zebras was a couple out of a dozen photos in the update, not meaning to make a point about zebras rather a point about their lives over the last 5 years.

The reason I keep zebras probably isn’t too different than why many keep tortoises. I am a veterinarian with an interest in exotics and have a large personal collection of exotics on 80 acres in north central Florida. I keep giant tortoises ( currently 28 from hatchling to subadult) because I find peace in sitting with a quiet uneedy peaceful creature at the end of the day. In equestrian terminology, I feel tortoises can be explained and classified as “pasture ornaments”. Tortoises seem simply happy in captivity provided correct environmental conditions and diet which is very important... stressed captives have stressed keepers... a recipe for mutual suffering. That is why when choosing exotics in my collection, I choose animals that are happy enough with what I can provide- large pastures. Hoof stock such as zebras fit this bill. They are happy to graze and get an occasional treat, but don’t need constant attention or maintenance. Zebras, like tortoises, are my pasture ornaments. Conversely I don’t keep monkeys ( containing a large plot of woods in 3 dimensions isn’t practical), big cats ( same reason as monkeys plus the threat to the general public in private collections), or anything that cannot be provided correct environmental conditions or stimulation to be happy in captivity. Zebras enjoy a scratch behind the ears ( human touch) like my giant tortoises like a neck scratch, then they are left alone to graze on pasture and I get to just watch them do their thing at the end of the day.

Now if you don’t mind a question, as a moderator, why do you think their is such a disparity on the tortoise forum and social media alike, between the sub populations of contributing tortoise keepers and the absence of keepers following their first “I got a tortoise post”? For example, for Aldabra tortoises, the contributing members are either within their first year of owning a juvenile or they are a single long time keeper/ breeder of adults that they acquired as adults? They are fairly hardy species, so it’s hard to believe many of the juveniles don’t make it. Similarly not many juveniles are being regimes second hand on the open market from individual keepers, so loss of interest doesn’t seem to explain the lack of contributions from keepers in the later years of keeping and growing. Could it be that many tortoise keepers grow tired
of the online game of taking the time and effort to make a post only to have it stepped on by keyboard experts or dealer egos that feel threatened? What do you think we could do better, as a tortoise community, to keep the the “middle tortoise keeper class” contributing and involved in the community? I feel like a lot of us “in the middle” have a lot to contribute but find the online community is a place to avoid.
 

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wellington

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Wow, really! All I said, was, i wouldn't think it would be a good thing to do. Did I say it was bad! Did I say seperate them asap! Did I say I knew anything about zebras and tortoises being together! Talk about attitude!
 

Krista S

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Sure I can answer that question too, however the point of my update on tortoise forum was to share the story of these tortoises growing up over a longer period of time instead of the typical “I have a new tortoise post” but then disappear or “I’m top dog breeder/ dealer” post. The original photo with the zebras was a couple out of a dozen photos in the update, not meaning to make a point about zebras rather a point about their lives over the last 5 years.

The reason I keep zebras probably isn’t too different than why many keep tortoises. I am a veterinarian with an interest in exotics and have a large personal collection of exotics on 80 acres in north central Florida. I keep giant tortoises ( currently 28 from hatchling to subadult) because I find peace in sitting with a quiet uneedy peaceful creature at the end of the day. In equestrian terminology, I feel tortoises can be explained and classified as “pasture ornaments”. Tortoises seem simply happy in captivity provided correct environmental conditions and diet which is very important... stressed captives have stressed keepers... a recipe for mutual suffering. That is why when choosing exotics in my collection, I choose animals that are happy enough with what I can provide- large pastures. Hoof stock such as zebras fit this bill. They are happy to graze and get an occasional treat, but don’t need constant attention or maintenance. Zebras, like tortoises, are my pasture ornaments. Conversely I don’t keep monkeys ( containing a large plot of woods in 3 dimensions isn’t practical), big cats ( same reason as monkeys plus the threat to the general public in private collections), or anything that cannot be provided correct environmental conditions or stimulation to be happy in captivity. Zebras enjoy a scratch behind the ears ( human touch) like my giant tortoises like a neck scratch, then they are left alone to graze on pasture and I get to just watch them do their thing at the end of the day.

Now if you don’t mind a question, as a moderator, why do you think their is such a disparity on the tortoise forum and social media alike, between the sub populations of contributing tortoise keepers and the absence of keepers following their first “I got a tortoise post”? For example, for Aldabra tortoises, the contributing members are either within their first year of owning a juvenile or they are a single long time keeper/ breeder of adults that they acquired as adults? They are fairly hardy species, so it’s hard to believe many of the juveniles don’t make it. Similarly not many juveniles are being regimes second hand on the open market from individual keepers, so loss of interest doesn’t seem to explain the lack of contributions from keepers in the later years of keeping and growing. Could it be that many tortoise keepers grow tired
of the online game of taking the time and effort to make a post only to have it stepped on by keyboard experts or dealer egos that feel threatened? What do you think we could do better, as a tortoise community, to keep the the “middle tortoise keeper class” contributing and involved in the community? I feel like a lot of us “in the middle” have a lot to contribute but find the online community is a place to avoid.
Your animals and property are stunning! It looks like heaven on earth and something to really admire. Thank you for sharing all of the pictures. I hope you’ll continue to update this thread in the future.
 

TortoiseDVM

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Hi TortoiseDVM, have you had any issues with the tortoises eating the Zebra poop? Have you had problems with them trying to walk through the wire horse fencing?
We're on 10 acres and I am still trying to figure out our future plans for housing our 3 young Aldabras and hatchling Galapagos. The Aldabras are 3-4 years old now and weigh between 40 and 50lbs. Currently they are in a 16x16 enclosure but its time to expand again.
Have you ever moved the tortoises between the pastures on your property? I was wondering how they handle a change to the location of their night box. We have upgraded their enclosure on more than one occasion and it really seems to throw them for a loop with returning to their heated box every night.
That’s awesome your aldabra are growing up too! 10 acres is a huge amount of land for a few tortoises to take a bite out of. Where are you located? Although you’ll hear from adult giant tortoise keepers that horse fencing isn’t adequate, it is a great option with modifications to fence off pasture for young and subadult tortoises. To avoid getting a head stuck or too much rubbing, I place fence boards along the bottom stacked 2 or 3 high. It is also aesthetically pleasing incorporated into 4 board and wire style horse fencing. The horse fence tension helps to keep the fence erect and standing, as well as unwanted animals out. Also With horse fencing you can round your corners instead making them 90 degree turns where the tortoises like to corner themselves. I attached some pics below :)

My tortoises haven’t shown much interest in horse/ zebra/ cow manure, but I would only be concerned if the animal that left the pile was recently dewormed. This goes for dog and cat poop as well which tortoises do have a for 🤢Many dewormers and heartworm preventatives contain ivermectin which is deadly to tortoises, so if any ivermectin escaped absorption/ digestion in the mammal it was administered to it could be consumed in the feces theoretically. I’d say a week after deworming horses/ dogs their manure/ poop is safe enough not to worry about but maybe some effort to avoid to letting eat dog/ cat feces if possible.
 

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dd33

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That’s awesome your aldabra are growing up too! 10 acres is a huge amount of land for a few tortoises to take a bite out of. Where are you located? Although you’ll hear from adult giant tortoise keepers that horse fencing isn’t adequate, it is a great option with modifications to fence off pasture for young and subadult tortoises. To avoid getting a head stuck or too much rubbing, I place fence boards along the bottom stacked 2 or 3 high. It is also aesthetically pleasing incorporated into 4 board and wire style horse fencing. The horse fence tension helps to keep the fence erect and standing, as well as unwanted animals out. Also With horse fencing you can round your corners instead making them 90 degree turns where the tortoises like to corner themselves. I attached some pics below :)

My tortoises haven’t shown much interest in horse/ zebra/ cow manure, but I would only be concerned if the animal that left the pile was recently dewormed. This goes for dog and cat poop as well which tortoises do have a for 🤢Many dewormers and heartworm preventatives contain ivermectin which is deadly to tortoises, so if any ivermectin escaped absorption/ digestion in the mammal it was administered to it could be consumed in the feces theoretically. I’d say a week after deworming horses/ dogs their manure/ poop is safe enough not to worry about but maybe some effort to avoid to letting eat dog/ cat feces if possible.
We are in the treasure coast area. We don't have horses, only fainting goats, kune kune pigs and lots of poultry. We had water buffalo at one point, they were sweet and gentle but boy did they hate turtles. They would kill any water turtle they found trying to cross from the canal to our pond.
Right now our enclosure is designed to keep the chickens away from the Aldabras, they can be vicious creatures sometimes. We also have concerns about gopher tortoises transmitting diseases but it has been a while since we have seen them around.

I think I might expand the 16x16 enclosure to 16x32 or a little larger and try to keep the Aldabras in it for one more year before fencing in something larger for them. Then we will use this Aldabra enclosure for the Galapagos when they are big enough to leave the tub in the garage.

I was not aware that ivermectin was toxic to tortoises. Good to know.
 
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