Guidance Needed for 2 New Tortoises (Lots of Pics)

DandR

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Hi - We just introduced ourselves in the Introductions forum and here now to ask questions!

We didn’t intend to rescue these 2 tortoises but we knew that the way they were being cared for couldn’t have been correct and we couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. We had no experience with tortoises and our knowledge so far has come from the clear and authoratative advice that we've read on this forum. Thank you all!

Their previous owner got them as babies because “they were so cute”. She got them at separate times, getting the second one to "keep the first one company". According to her, one tortoise is 4 years old and the other is 3 years old. She said that they are sulcatas.

Under their previous owner:
  • They were kept together in an open 24’’ x 18” contoured plastic tub filled with about 1” of beach sand.
  • They lived in a high rise with central AC. She knew nothing about proper temps and humidity.
  • She'd put them out on her lanai for sun “on her days off”. She's a workaholic so that was something like every 10-12 days.
  • They were fed once a day, before she left for work.
  • They were fed cabbage (for weeks straight until the head was all gone) and green leaf lettuce (the same way). No other variety.
  • When they first came to us, they dragged their back legs behind them and their poop was pale, pea-sized sandballs.

Here’s what they looked like when we first got them and the tub they came in. My husband’s legs are in there for scale.

This is Donny, who she said was 4 years old.
150725-2Donny.jpg

This is Raf, who she said was 3 years old. 150910-28Raf.jpg

This is what they lived in.
tub.jpg

Since then, we’ve separated them but their space is not as ideal as we’d like. We’re in the middle of renovating with no yard to speak of, so, for now, we’re at the mercy of my mom. She’s allowed us a 5’ x 20’ portion of her yard but was firm that no boards nor cinderblocks be used (asethetic reasons). So each tortoise is kept in it’s own 5’ x 10’ foot area, bordered with bamboo fencing. That bamboo fencing is amazingly strong (at least for our tortoises’ size). In fact, when my husband was pounding them in, he accidentally fell on it…he took an awkward tumble but the 10” stakes held the fencing firmly in place. It’s the best we can do at this time, until we get our own yard established in about 6-7 months. The current pen is in a wind tunnel so there's fencing around their dishes too to keep the food in place.

Donny's side
160126Enclosure1.jpg
Raf's side
160126Enclosure4.jpg
Their hide is divided inside as well, with CHEs on each side. Coco coir substrate and sponges to keep humidity.
160126Box1.jpg

Temps:

Day: 77 – 92
Basking: 100 - 105
Day Hide: 75 - 85
Night: 85 - 90, 60% - 80% humidity


Twice a day they’re fed grass, weeds & leaves from the yard, with chopped hay mixed in. Twice a week, we give them Zoomed grassland tortoise food, which they don’t seem to like. They do like the cuttlebone we leave out.

They’re soaked 4-5 days a week for 25-30 minutes. Their poop is about 2-3 inches, firm and dark.

The older one is starting to graze the lawn on its own, and both can now walk steadily on their back legs, no dragging or buckling. There’s been no digging or flipping on their backs.

Here's what they look like now. The pics of them in their dishes is to show scale, the dishes are 8" saucers.

DONNY Side
160127Donny1.jpg

DONNY Top 160127Donny3.jpg

DONNY Rear 160127Donny2.jpg

DONNY Plastron 160127Donny4.jpg

DONNY size
160126Donny8.jpg

RAF Side
160127Raf1.jpg

RAF Top
160127Raf2.jpg

RAF Rear
160127Raf3.jpg

RAF Plastron
160127Raf4.jpg

RAF Size
160126Raf6.jpg

Thanks for reading this far! Now our questions:

1) Do we have sulcatas? If so, we’re prepared and planning our yard to be as solidly contained and impenetrable as the lava rock on which our house sits. The torts are in a for big surprise when they actually do start to dig.

2) Are they stunted? We began weighing them regularly 4 months ago. Here's the comparison:
stats2.jpg
Does 80 and 71 grams in four months seem acceptable or does it indicate that they're not thriving?

4) Their back legs work much better now, but they don’t try to climb or dig out. We half expected to see them climbing the fencing around their dishes and maybe end up on their backs. But they don't even try to climb those. Does that mean that they lack overall strength?

5) We have loads of hibiscus on our property. Is it ok for it to be a staple in their diet?

6) Does their new growth look smoother than their initial pyramiding?

That's all we have for now and look forward to everyone's input. We need as much guidance as possible to give these poor things a better life than they started off with. We'll probably have more questions but will wait to see what you all have to say.
 

Tom

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First of all, you two deserve a medal for doing such an amazing job with these two tortoises and taking on such a task. Very well done. Bravo!

Your questions:
1. Yes. You have sulcatas. Some of them never dig, but if they do, they can probably dig through the lava rock... Only half kidding.
2. They are very undersized for their age, but only time will tell if they are stunted. Don't worry about this. Just feed them and house them correctly, as you are, and wait and see. Just enjoy them.
4. Tortoises are earthbound. Many don't try to climb. I would not worry about this either.
5. Hibiscus leaves are an EXCELLENT tortoise food. Flowers are fine a couple of times a week or daily in very small amounts.
6. The newest growth does look pretty good. It will take some time for them to really start growing.

A couple of notes:
1. Few tortoises will walk up and eat plain ZooMed chow. It is best used as a supplement to add fiber to typical grocery store greens. Soak a few pellets and mix it in with the days greens. Start with only one or two pellets and gradually add more over time. Tortoises are creatures of habit and often take weeks or months to get used to the idea of a new food, especially a healthy new food.
2. Order some Mazuri tortoise chow. This is a good dietary supplement and will give them some needed protein and balanced nutrition.
3. Your soaking and housing routine sounds EXCELLENT. In time those CHEs will likely begin to damage their carapaces because they concentrate too much heat in one small area. They are fine for now, but when these guys start getting bigger, you will need something else.

Feel free to ask all the questions you want. We are all here to talk tortoises.
 

Jodie

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Second the bravo! That is a nice looking enclosure. Sounds like you are doing great. These 2 are very lucky to have you find and save them. I think they will grow up and be very nice looking tortoises.
 

Sulcatabynby

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Wow! I'm a new member but plan to borrow some of your ideas for my sulcata babys new outdoor enclosure! I live in Kansas City so it will still be a while before I can start constructing. I love the bamboo idea!
And your wonderful giving hearts! Turtle Love!!
 

Cheryl Hills

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Such sweet looking torts. This is the BEST place to find info. Everyone on this forum is very helpful. Good luck and welcom!
 

Lyn W

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Hi and welcome!
Thank goodness Donny and Raf have you and what a great job you have done with them so far, they look like different torts!
 

Markw84

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WOW! You guys have done a great job setting this up. What a diametrically opposed experience for THEM to what they obviously were previously exposed to. Its fantastic to see the care you've taken to do it right!
 

MPRC

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Kudos to you, what a lucky couple of tortoises. I'm glad you guys were able to take them in!

I second what was said above about the ZooMed food. I actually run mine through the food processor for a couple seconds to break it up and shake it over the days rations to add a little extra fiber and variety. If I just soak a pellet and give it to either tortoise they turn up their noses at it.
 

DandR

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First of all, you two deserve a medal for doing such an amazing job with these two tortoises and taking on such a task. Very well done. Bravo!

Your questions:
1. Yes. You have sulcatas. Some of them never dig, but if they do, they can probably dig through the lava rock... Only half kidding.
2. They are very undersized for their age, but only time will tell if they are stunted. Don't worry about this. Just feed them and house them correctly, as you are, and wait and see. Just enjoy them.
4. Tortoises are earthbound. Many don't try to climb. I would not worry about this either.
5. Hibiscus leaves are an EXCELLENT tortoise food. Flowers are fine a couple of times a week or daily in very small amounts.
6. The newest growth does look pretty good. It will take some time for them to really start growing.

A couple of notes:
1. Few tortoises will walk up and eat plain ZooMed chow. It is best used as a supplement to add fiber to typical grocery store greens. Soak a few pellets and mix it in with the days greens. Start with only one or two pellets and gradually add more over time. Tortoises are creatures of habit and often take weeks or months to get used to the idea of a new food, especially a healthy new food.
2. Order some Mazuri tortoise chow. This is a good dietary supplement and will give them some needed protein and balanced nutrition.
3. Your soaking and housing routine sounds EXCELLENT. In time those CHEs will likely begin to damage their carapaces because they concentrate too much heat in one small area. They are fine for now, but when these guys start getting bigger, you will need something else.

Feel free to ask all the questions you want. We are all here to talk tortoises.

Ok, thanks. IF they turn out to be stunted, what, if anything, does that do to their insides? What kinds of health problems may be down the road?
 

DandR

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Thanks, everyone. It's been a very fun journey only made possible by following the incredible instructions on TFO. The Enclosures thread and Diets thread were our bibles.

Forgot to mention that, after the oomphas put themselves to sleep for the night, we lock their doors. Just to keep other night critters out.

We're impatient to get our own yard setup so that they can have all the space they need. Although it's a far better environment than the one they came from, we feel it's still too small.
 

DandR

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Wow! I'm a new member but plan to borrow some of your ideas for my sulcata babys new outdoor enclosure! I live in Kansas City so it will still be a while before I can start constructing. I love the bamboo idea!
And your wonderful giving hearts! Turtle Love!!
Thanks. For now the bamboo works because they're so small. But larger tortoises could probably ram it down very easily!
 

Yvonne G

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Those are just absolutely beautiful enclosures! What a nice job. And the tortoises are looking great too. Looks like both of them are female.
 

DandR

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Those are just absolutely beautiful enclosures! What a nice job. And the tortoises are looking great too. Looks like both of them are female.
I've learned from here that 3 or 4 years old might be too young to tell, but their "U"s are quite pronounced, yes? Could it be that they're actually older than the previous owner said. That would be really sad because then they're REALLY undersized.
 

Tom

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Ok, thanks. IF they turn out to be stunted, what, if anything, does that do to their insides? What kinds of health problems may be down the road?

My immediate concerns would be constipation, bladder or kidney stones, or other dehydration related issues. More long term issues might be nutrient deficiencies and what that may have done to their skeletal system.

There is really no sense in worrying about it. Simply continue with the excellent care and diet you are already offering and chances are very good for a full recovery with no lasting side effects.
 

Odin's Gma

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Nothing to add that hasn't been said already, they are off to a great start on their new lives thanks to you. :tort::<3:
 

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