Mixing Species

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Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 23, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Can I put another type of tortoise in the same habitat with my Russian tortoise?

Many zoos are still using an inherited system of mixing the large island species. The valid concerns of disease transmission had either already been born out many years ago, and/or the zoo simply does not have space/exhibits to separate them, an often witnessed professional argument between the herp curator seeking to sperate, with the director seeking admissions and zoo use sales - gets won by the director most of the time..

Sulcata and leopards do have overlapping areas of their natural ranges, not much, but it is biogeographicaly correct. I would still not house them together, as sulcatas seem more often than not, unwilling to share space with leopards.

Other mixed groups that have been displayed with images here (TFO) are yellowfoots, aldabras, and galops, all based on the size of the animals and again, that professional argument, at Saint Louis Zoo (which has one of the finest reptile vivariums in the US - IMO).

The reason zoos do it is mostly based on an inherited set-up, coupled with the fact that zoos have a different criteria/needs, they are selling tickets, and have a full time vet, and dedicated staff (good or bad). Many zoos with a stronger curator have leaned towards having only one or the other of the giants, based on popularity with their public, and what the curator can manage in terms of which group can be properly surplused.

Mixing the tortoises outside with mammals is a good way to show how animals are in the wild, not species by species as might be thought of as the 'biblical' display pattern. Many of those animals (not by species, but by individual) will be housed separately when off display.

There are good zoos, great zoos, and those that are minimal. I've been to the Cape May zoo many times, it is a well managed animal population with many dedicated keepers. In there tropical bird house they mix species too, in a multi-hundred square foot enclosure. Not an aquarium or even a 4 x 8 footprint enclosure.

Size of enclosure is another factor that makes mixed species work, if at all. A redfoot mixed with a Russian at PetCo is a disaster, two biogeographicaly mixed species like a leopard and a sulcata in an exhibit large enough for mixed hoof stock is OK. These are apples and oranges types of comparisons.

Mixing species has two fates, it will work or it won't. So what you have to consider, is this - are your husbandry practices good enough, and your resources (vets, physical space, etc.) sufficient - to play with it? Then ask yourself even if you meet the first criteria, what benefit are you getting, are the tortoises getting from being mixed? Most all tortoises are single animals with occasional encounters in the wild with other tortoises. They are not mob, herd, or flocking animals with very few exceptions.

The tortoise does not NEED to be with others. So what do you get, the fewer enclosures to upkeep - mix the wrong species/individuals together and they will die, and then you have no upkeep!

The sole animal disaster, as it was phrased, is the result of disease, poor husbandry, or the individual animal not being a "doer". Two of those three potentials is why you should always use a long quarantine, and not mix.

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