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Hibernating in a damp climate

Discussion in 'Marginated tortoises' started by Marianna, Jan 13, 2018.

  1. Marianna

    Marianna Member

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    Living in Greece I know how damp the winters are here.
    I keep a couple of marginated tortoises in an enclosure of about 500 m2. I think it has all the aspects of their natural habitat. Rocks, olive trees, shrubs, sloping and flat areas. They are only 4 years old but have hibernated outside from when I got them at the age of 1 year. I try not to interfere but just observate their behaviour. As I still not know if within their enclosure the ideal natural hibernation spot excists, I made them a simple house of bricks with a floortile on top and filled it with dry leaves.
    By the end of November they dig themselves just a little into the wet red clay soil and with the leaves on top they are fine until they wake up by the end of March.
    So from the beginning it was obvious for me that they are made for long dry summers (they hardly ever bath then although I supply them fresh water every day) and damp winters. They basically are surrounded by a humidity level of 90- 100% for 4 months and no signs of pyramiding at all.
    I think it is simple. When/if you keep a tortoise in capttivity, learn about
    its natural habitat and try to copy that as much as possible....
    Bee62 likes this.
  2. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    So your saying they are at 90/100% humidity whilst hibernating from November to March then whilst they are active from March to November they are dry. Is this correct.
    Also what months do they hatch in the area where you live?
  3. Marianna

    Marianna Member

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    I don't know when they hatch in the wild but I presume in spring and or autumn because then the fields are full of young green plants. Mine were hatched in captivity and were born in june 2013.
    Here in Crete we have long dry summers with no rain from June until September. Most ofl the rain we get falls in the wintermonths and I can assure you that often leads to floods.....
    I wish I knew how to get pictures on the thread so I could show some photos but I am a total nitwit and only have an android tablet.




  4. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    I've been to Crete and other Greek islands but only in July, August and September.
    If they hatch out when there are young green plants then it can't be bond dry in micro climates because of the greenery, it will be humid.
    Tell me how your annual weather is please, and what is the foliage like throughout the year.
    How many months are actually dry and arid?
  5. Marianna

    Marianna Member

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    First of all, marginated tortoises originally were not found in Crete. But greek tortoises are endemic here.
    We live in North West Crete where is more annual rainfall than on the rest of the island. We have 2500 mtr high mountains that are snow covered from December until May. We live on an altitude of 300 mtr and often have some snow in the winter, last year 40 cm. It never stays longer than a couple of days though.
    Because of the rains it is very lush here. Forests with cypresses, oak trees, carob, plane trees and of course millions of olive and orange trees.

    Almost every Cretan has sheep. They browse the island until nothing is left except from the above mentioned and lots of phlomis, cacti, oleanders, agaves and euphorbia they don't savour.
    So in the summer the soil becomes rock hard and is arid. Mid September with some luck we get the first rain (that will continue to fall from time to time until about mid May). From that moment the island turns green again and grasses, bulbs, seeds from annuals and bi-annuals start growing. Lots of flowers in winter and spring. Crete is famous for its endemic flora.
    We don't have sheep so by April our field is covered with flowers and plants. Paradise for tortoises!! By the end of May it is dried out completely and we have to do the work the sheep normally do because of the risk of forest fires.
    Then the arid period starts. June July and August are hot hot hot and no rain is to be expected. On mainland Greece you might have an occasional shower but here it is rare. We do notice some climate change here too though. The last 2 summers often had damp evenings where humidity could rise up to 80%.
    I think mediterranian tortoises are such easy to keep creatures because they are well adapted to these extreme weather conditions.
    I have a german friend near Berlin who has a greek tortoise that is kept outside all year around and roams free in the garden. It digs itself deep into the ground for winter and awakes about the same time as mine do......
    Another thing that I have noticed btw is that I have the feeling these tortoises have a built in time clock. This said my "knowledge" is only from observating over the last 3 years and things might still change when the margins grow older, but last year March we had a week with temperatures well over 20 degrees so I checked daily. Nothing happened.....Then by the end of the month on a chilly rainy day, there they were!! The same happened in November. Beautiful warm weather but they still decided to start hibernating at a certain day even though they had eaten the day before.
    Another proof of how well adapted these creatures are is another experience we had.
    At the end of March 2015 when the tortoises had just woken up we had 12 beaufort winds from the african dessert that broke mature trees like matches. The next day we noticed one of the tortoises had disappeared. We had a smaller enclosure then because they were still quite small. Searched for days but never found it again. Until the end of August when my cretan neighbour came to us to ask whether we had tortoises because he was sure he had seen one on his field. So we went to look for it and found it!!!! It had damage on his carapache so it must have been taken by these strong winds but what was so amazing is that it had grown just as much as the others we have, while they were fed with flowers from the garden and romaine leaves through the summer....All that was present on that field was sheep droppings!! Looking back on it I believe there was nothing wrong with that diet because sheep droppings must be full of weeds. Again proof it could survive and without a drop of water in the hottest months! He is now the biggest of all 3...
    I find it fascinating to sit near their enclosure and just watch them brousing. They even eat bits of the hard clay soil in summer. Haven't thought of a reason for that yet but they seem to enjoy it.
    The ultimate goal for me is that in a couple of years they can roam free in the garden and our field. It is fenced on top of stone walls so they won't be able to go elsewhere.
    They are already used to our dogs, hens, geese and cat. And the other way around. Actually they respect them because they stay well out of their way....
    vladimir likes this.
  6. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Can you start your own thread please with photos of your tortoises. I'm interested in your points of view regarding tortoises. If you start a thread, hopefully can show you how to load photos.
  7. Marianna

    Marianna Member

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    Ok as I said, I am a nitwit. Will first try to find out how to start a thread other then the introduction one a couple of months ago. Hopefully you can teach me how to upload photos. I do have a smartphone with pictures taken last year
  8. Reptilian Feline

    Reptilian Feline Active Member

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    After I found out about how important humidity is to especially tiny torts nomatter where they come from, I've started to notice it in other areas as well. Tarantulas and scorpions from desert areas will die when slings and scorplings if they are not provided with some water, and sometimes more than a little at that. Some adults might come from dry climats, but depending on how they live, they might prefer more humidity that you might think.

    It's one thing to look at weather reports and so on, but most places have hidden spots with higher humidity... just turn a rock over and look at all the fun things hiding in the moister spots.
    Anyfoot likes this.
  9. Marianna

    Marianna Member

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    Apparently I suddenly have my own thread now. Thanks to anyone who did this for me, although I have been writing and have experience about my marginated tortoises only.
    I agree with you Reptilian Feline about hidden spots with higher humidity. In the summer I always find snais and small scorpionsl under rocks and probably my tortoises too. Also the trees and shrubs take care of some condensation during the nights. Maybe that is why my tortoises are not interested in water at all. Actually when I put them in their bowl they don't know how quickly to get out of there!
    Anyfoot likes this.
  10. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    When ever I go to a Greek island it's during summer months for our holidays, so I don't know what the rest of the year is like. Obviously there is rain because of the greenery. But even when it's 35/40c and dry during the day in summer, soon as the sun sets, humidity raises extremely.
    Can you tell me if during the night and early in the morning during summer months if there is dew on the ground. It would be real nice if you could check humidity levels deep in the undergrowth in micro climates during the day and night in the summer months too please. :D
    Have you worked out how to put photos on yet?
  11. Marianna

    Marianna Member

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    At this very moment humidity is 88% and temperature 11 degrees. Dew point 9 degrees.
    We live almost 20 years in Crete and the first 12 years summers were hot but bearable with humidity of 20-30% and winds from the north.. As I said before this is slowly changing and the last 2 summers were horrid. More like tropical. We live inland. Near to the beaches you often have the damp from the sea in the evenings. Crete is the most southern island in the Aegean and warmer than the other islands.
    I have a hygro meter so can start measuring next summer which means you have to be patient for a while....There is no damp on the ground though. The heat hits you already early in the morning. I prefer the winters here. They are like the summers in Holland but nicer.
    No idea photowise!!
    Anyfoot likes this.
  12. Anyfoot

    Anyfoot Well-Known Member

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    Is it possible for you to measure humidity levels at ground level in micro climates aswell as the air humidity? I can be patient I think.

    What are you using to access this forum?
    Do you have an 'UPLOAD A FILE' button?
  13. Marianna

    Marianna Member

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    I will definitely crawl under some shrubs this summer and put the hygrometer also in the various terracotta pots that are used by the tortoises for siesta, as I have become curious myself.
    Sofar I use the website to access the forum, not the app . I use my android tablet to do so. I have no idea what you mean by the button you mention. Is that an app? for no such thing on my tablet.
    I have a recent Moto 5g plus smartphone which I use to take pictures. Would be really handy if I could upload from there, but agian, no idea.
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  14. Marianna

    Marianna Member

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    20151114_114155.jpg

    Ha! Found it. This was november 2014
    Max and Me and Anyfoot like this.
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