Hello from North East England...

Graeme Shaw

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
23
Location (City and/or State)
Durham, England
Hello ladies and gentlemen.

I am here because I seek wisdom and advice. Some of the stuff I tell you might sound wrong or ignorant but that is simply because I know very little about tortoises. I really do need the help and assistance of this forum.

This is going to be a bit of a long one so bear with me.

I am a 47 year old self employed gentleman married to a 30 year old Veterinary Nurse (yes, I know!).

My house is therefore, filled with animals (and a couple of beautiful children).

We have guinea pigs. In fact we have 14 of them. They even have their own bespoke shed outside. We have 2 goldfish ('Great White Death' and 'Leviathan'). We have 4 rabbits. We have a Russian dwarf hamster. We have 3 cockatiels. We have a 'special needs' Labrador.

And until recently we had a tortoise.

At this point I feel I must point out that every single animal we look after and every one we ever have looked after in the past was rescued.

And that includes our tortoise, Ramesses (Ramses or as we affectionately call him 'Rammy').

Ramesses was brought to my wife's veterinary surgery one day in 2006. It was the hottest day that year and obviously he had planned to make his escape when it was good and hot so he could get some speed up and put as much distance between his 'captors' and himself. Unfortunately for him a Staffordshire Bull Terrier thought he would make a nice toy to carry around and found him in some grass at the edge of a common. The Staffie brought Rammy back to it's Owner, wagging it's tail as it did so. The owner of the dog tried to coax the tortoise from it's mouth but every time he did so the dog clamped its jaws down on the tortoise, enough to ensure the owner couldn't remove our gallant little escapee. So the owner walked the dog, tail wagging and tortoise in its' mouth, all the way to my wife's place of work. There, with the aid of a special kind of clamp they gently eased the dog's mouth open and out fell what was soon to become our little tortoise.

And he was little. He fitted quite comfortably into the palm of my wife's hand. His shell was badly deformed (not from the Staffy, apparently). He was scanned to see if he had any I.D. (he didn't) and so he was kept at the surgery for some time. Word was put around the area about him but no one claimed him.

So my wife brought him home.

Now my wife is a veterinary nurse, as I have said many times already, and she has a charm and a way with almost all animals. She know much about their care and health. But she didn't (and to our shame we still don't) know much at all about tortoises.

We have kept him in an enclosed cage with windows and a light bulb and he has grown, deformed shell and all, into a reasonably surly tortoise who likes to be bathed and doesn't mind having his head rubbed very gently. He loves to explore when we let him out too, so has lost none of his wandering spirit.

But as he has grown we have become worried that our ignorance about him is inexcusable and so is us forcing a lonely existence on him. His life in his 'box' cannot be one that any vet nurse and animal loving husband could ever be proud of and so we have finally decided to improve his quality of life.

We don't even know what species he is! Although we do know he is male because for some time he used to hump his rock and make rather disconcerting noises. Then the end of his todger went all calloused and nasty and we had to bathe it regularly. I don't know if he is now in any state to do that kind of thing. He hasn't done it for years, that I have witnessed anyway.

So there is my first question.

What kind of tortoise is Ramesses?

The next questions coming up.

I have been toying with the idea of giving Rammy a domain worth living in and came up with the idea of converting a large office desk into a tortoise table. I bought one from eBay for £30 and I am now some way forward with the construction of it and it has to be a far better home for him than the one we currently keep him in. I have an idea for a boxed in section where he can sleep, a warm section where he can bask and a cooler section where he can 'chill out' if he gets a little too warm. I can post pics if someone can show me how as I would love to know whether what I am doing is suitable.

So there is my next question.

If I post pics of my tortoise table can you tell me if I am doing it right or not?

Now as well as decent living space I need to know about the stuff under his tough little belly. I really don't know what substrate to put in his tortoise world and whether I need to have different stuff in different areas of the table.

What does our tortoise have under foot to ensure he is comfortable and how deep does it need to be?

And that leads onto the next question.

Lighting. For many years he has just has a plain old tungsten light bulb in his tank and a UV tube. He seems to like sitting underneath it and it keeps his enclosure warm. But it is wrong. We know it is wrong and it is waaaaay past time his lighting quality was upgraded with the rest of his environment. And this is where I worry. I have found so much seemingly contradictory info on the net about UV and heat lighting that I am completely confused now. But I am also worried that I blind him by fitting the wrong type of light. He's had a rough enough time of it already in his life without depriving him of his eyesight.

What lighting is best for our tortoise, how and where should it be mounted and what should it's specification be? What are the temps range we need our table to be within?

The guilt trip continued as we planned Rammy's new home and we thought he would like a pal. And so we sought out a friend for him. A girlfriend. Not to mate with (we don't think he can, what with his rather abused winky), just for company and so he has an excuse to sleep in the huffy bed now and again. In order to fit in with the house rule of 'rescue animal' we sought out a one that was being sold because the owner could no longer look after it due to a change in circumstance, rather than go to a breeder. We found one in Leeds that looked very similar to Ramesses. She is a Herman's tortoise according to her papers and she is about the same size and he shell looks almost the same in colour (although I know that is not a guarantee that he is therefore a Herman's). Her name is Nefertari and they both seem to tolerate each other's company very well.

We were a bit disappointed that Rammy didn't make a huge fuss of her when they were introduced on the neutral territory of the bedroom carpet but they are fine in close company and she seems to always want to be very close by him. And he doesn't mind that. And if Ramesses doesn't mind that we are overjoyed.

Nefertari likes to bury herself. Ramesses doesn't.

Why is that?

We want to start their diet again on a strict and healthy regime so we would like to know what to feed them. Ramesses has always been fed fresh vegetables, tomato, lettuce, spring greens, spinach, broccoli, carrot, a little apple now and again dandelions when he can get them.

Nefertari came to us on a mixture of fresh veg and pelleted food (which she scoffs like it's going out of fashion). As I type they are both tucking into a large plate of fresh mixed veg.

We tried for a very long time to have Ramesses eat a calcium powdered food. He flatly refuses to eat anything dusted with it. He will not eat anything remotely like a calcium block. If we dust his food he goes on an immediate and rigid hunger strike.

What is the best diet for our tortoises, how much and how can we encourage Ramesses to swallow a bit of calcium?

So that is where we are right now. I thank you for your patience for reading this and I know you have been reading through it, pulling your hair out, face palming yourself and saying things like "why the heck did you do that!" and "no No NO, you idiot!".

I know. We've been doing it so wrong but we want to make it right for them both and for that we need your help.

One final thing. In all the time we have had him, Ramesses has never shown an inclination to hibernate. I don't know if that is good or bad for him.

Thank you for your time. All comments and criticisms are welcome...
 

crimson_lotus

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Dec 28, 2013
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Location (City and/or State)
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Hello and welcome :)

Do you have a picture of your tortoise Ramses? A picture would be the best way to find out what species your little guy is.

What type of bulbs are you using? As for UV, a lot of the bulbs need to be changed every 6 months as they lose their efficiency to emit UV at all.

What substrate? If you could take a picture of the enclosure as well, I think it would be helpful for all of us to tweak your set-up.
 

Graeme Shaw

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
23
Location (City and/or State)
Durham, England
Thank you all for you responses. Let me see if I can post up some relevant photos for you...
 
Last edited:

Graeme Shaw

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
23
Location (City and/or State)
Durham, England
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If you can see this, Ramesses is the one furthest from the camera...
 

Graeme Shaw

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
23
Location (City and/or State)
Durham, England
For the new enclosure we have no bulbs decided upon yet. Rather that we would wait and see what you all recommend...
 

Graeme Shaw

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
23
Location (City and/or State)
Durham, England
10422374_10204772268960178_2869545711616785361_n.jpg


Ramesses up close with Nefertari in the background. This is inside Rammy's current and shortly to be thrown away environment...
 

Graeme Shaw

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
23
Location (City and/or State)
Durham, England
Is it best I post the rest of the photos in a relevant new thread in one of the forums or should I post them here?
 

crimson_lotus

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I think Ramesses needs a good beak trim, what we usually recommend on here is to buy one of those terracotta plant saucers for their food dish. When they eat on it, their beak scrapes against the plate and keeps it filed down.

As for the verification of whether or not your tortoises are both hermanns, I was hoping to leave that up to those who have kept them with more experience.

Given that your boy there has already exposed his "winky", it's safe to say it's male. Did it dry up? A lot of the time if it is dried up it needs to be amputated, but it sounds like it hasnt popped up in some time and that isn't really an issue anymore.
 

crimson_lotus

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If you aren't sure Neffy is a girl, an easy way to tell would be to check out her plastron. Whether their plastron is indented or not, the length of the tail, etc. I'm sure someone on here could verify that for you as well.
 

Graeme Shaw

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
23
Location (City and/or State)
Durham, England
Thanks Crimson. Neffy has a much shorter tail than Rammy. Her papers say she is a girl too. I have just taken Rammy out of the tank to do some close up photos of him and his beak is very long. I wanted to show the misshapen shell. My wife tells me he did receive some damage from the Staffordshire Bull Terrier's jaws and his shell still has the marks from it but I wouldn't know what it looks like. More pics coming soon to show the state of Rammy's shell...
 

Graeme Shaw

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Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
23
Location (City and/or State)
Durham, England
'Mr Grumpy' up close. Notice those red areas on his lower shell at the front edge? That doesn't look healthy! They look like splits or chunks missing.
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His deformed shell.
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Your thoughts on the poor chap?
 
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