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New Enclosure/Keeper Syndrome

Discussion in 'General Tortoise Discussion' started by Yvonne G, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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    This happens over and over and I'm at a loss to explain it.

    A person brings a tortoise home, a new-to-you tortoise. The tortoise roams around the yard/habitat eating and inspecting and seems to settle right in. He goes into the shelter in the evening by himself. The next day he doesn't come out, doesn't eat, just sits there seemingly pouting.

    I get it that tortoises have to settle in to make sure they're in a safe place, but why did they walk around eating that first day?

    Last week I took in a 50lb sulcata. They set him down in my back yard, said their goodbyes and took his picture, all the while the tortoise is walking around, eating grass and acting like he's in the best place in the world. That evening he took himself through the vinyl strip door, into the shelter, without having been shown where the shelter is. That was the last I saw of him for three days. He never came out. Finally, on the fourth day, I brought him out. He turned around and went right back into the shelter.
  2. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    Tortoises do not like change and they do not like being removed from "their" territory. That is the best explanation I can offer. Some species seem to get over it sooner and with fewer issues, and others, like Bow Sprits, seem unable to get over it and die.
  3. ascott

    ascott Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I do not know Yvonne. One of those life questions that we seem to only be able to presume about.
  4. KarenSoCal

    KarenSoCal Well-Known Member

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    I wondered if Chug would show any adverse reaction on Mon when the biggest shade tree in his enclosure toppled.
    He has paid no attention, other than to check out the hole the stump left.
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  5. EllieMay

    EllieMay Well-Known Member

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    My dog loves to go visiting but grieves when I have to leave him anywhere but home.. I think it must be the same principal. I believe a certain amount of “love” is actually instinctual for any animal.. wether it’s love for a person, a habitat, food, company... who knows. But any constant that is taken away must produce a variable.. He’ll adjust when he realizes the good points of the change:). good luck!
  6. Team Gomberg

    Team Gomberg IXOYE 5 Year Member

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    Interesting. Maybe there's more to it than just a change in location. Or, maybe I'm just lucky with a tortoise who doesn't care about change.

    I have moved with my 6 year old leopard many times and he's never had the "hiding issue" after any of them. Let's see, he's lived in a total of, 6 different backyards (8 enclosures total if you count the 2 closed chambers in the first 2 years). I don't recall any behavior changes any of those times.
    He always ate, came out, walked around and of course, rammed my ankles. :rolleyes:

    Sometimes I wonder if he recognises that we were going from house to house with him. ??
    Sometimes I think he's used to change as his normal. Keep in mind he's also my petting zoo tortoise and goes a variety of places, often.

    But I don't know. What do you think? Do you really see this hiding issue with the majority of tortoises?
    Well, either way I'm glad Levi doesn't do it. Especially considering there's at least 1 more move in his future! :cool:
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  7. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    I think it can also have something to do with sex, species and whether going from always warm housed outside to half year warm and being housed inside the other half.
    Like Heathers Levi, my two male leopards don't seem to be bothered by anything. They were both raised in Chicago from hatchling. One by me the other by another person. They moved enclosures several times and house/yard once.
    Now an adult female I got that came from AZ lived only at my current house but did have about 3 different enclosures. The first year/summer here she was fine. Acted like the other two although not as much roaming, kinda lazy lol. Laid eggs, all good. The next year outside she only wanted to stay in. I always had to put her outside and then she would either go back in or if I blocked her door, she would just hide under the hide/shade in the yard. She still laid eggs, and once in a great while would act like she did the first year, but it didn't last long.
    Never really had shy or difficult hatchlings.
  8. daniellenc

    daniellenc Well-Known Member

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    Skurt took weeks to eat and roam normally but ate the first day he came home. I’m hoping when his new AP cage comes the transition is easier though.
  9. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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    Yes, but it was a BIG change being put in the back of the truck and moving to my back yard. Why did he walk around grazing that first day?
  10. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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    Well then, maybe the constant is that YOU were always there, you = the food goddess! That could very well be 'it'!!

    Every single rescue I take in acts like this - first day ok, hiding from then on.
  11. TriciaStringer

    TriciaStringer Well-Known Member

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    I always feel the first day they are like, “This is awesome! Loook at all this new stuff! It’s delicious!”
    Day 2, “Well cr—! I’m still here. I didn’t think I was going to be here again today. I mean one day is fine, but forever, I think not. I’m going to pout until they put me back. That’ll show ‘em.”
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  12. G-stars

    G-stars Well-Known Member

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    I personally don’t believe tortoises rationalize like that, like humans do. They don’t care who’s there or get excited if it’s a new place. I believe they act “normal” the first day because they got put in a new territory and are wondering around perhaps looking for their old territory.

    Perhaps they sense (smell) other tortoises nearby and don’t want to intrude in their territory?
  13. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    I don't agree with the human part. My tortoises act very different with me then even my son and hub who sometimes has to care for them when I'm gone. In fact they think my tortoises are jerks for them. With me, they run right over. The one tries to walk on my shoe every time but never rams. If I walk they follow. I walk in the evening to the hide opening and in they go for the night. If someone is with me, they are hesitant to come over and will even pull in. I do think a familiar face or whatever they do recognize about us, could be a factor.
  14. G-stars

    G-stars Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps they do recognize certain humans but not by facial recognition but by smell??? Either way all of my tortoises could care less who feeds them.
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  15. Turtulas-Len

    Turtulas-Len Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I'm Bringing Enoch, Toad and Alex back to the Beach for Breeding next Monday. (Walker will be happy) But I've been wondering how they are going to act when they get here. Their houses went with them to the new home and will stay there for their return in a couple weeks. I going to set up a few temporary hides for them, but they may use the old burrow under Walkers house they sometimes used before the move to the new yard. Also about 2 hours ago I received a 2 week old sulcata hatchling, going to see if I can grow it like Alex, but only better. Now to the real point of this thread I believe sulcatas are territorial and when they are moved they don't have their territory anymore, they are confused for a while until they can claim a new territory as theirs.
  16. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    @Will addressed this once before in a discussion about Chersina angulata and why we don't seem to be able to keep imports alive here in this country. He noted that leopard tortoises have very large home ranges, wander great distances and seem to sleep wherever they end up that day. Doesn't seem to bother them. By contrast, Chersina occupy relatively small ranges, walk the same paths daily, and tend to sleep in the same few spots, if not the same spot every night. The leopards seem fine with wherever they are, while the Chersina, which live in the same part of the world and the same climate, are innately tied to their small home territories. Leopards generally do fine when moved to new areas, while most imported Chersina just can't seem to adapt and survive.
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  17. Toddrickfl1

    Toddrickfl1 Well-Known Member

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    I had quite the hard time with my RF Murphy when I first got him. Besides the fact that I initially had an issue with a coil bulb. Even after that was realized and corrected he didn't want to come out of his hide or eat anything for weeks. In fact at times I thought I was going to lose him. He finally got settled in but it took a long while. I also know he was an import, which I believe made it even harder for him. Even now though if I change one thing in his routine he seems to throw temper tantrums and sulk. I try to keep his daily routine exactly consistent now because of this.
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  18. daniellenc

    daniellenc Well-Known Member

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    I just looked back at my first why won’t Skurt eat posts. At the time it felt like weeks he hid and refused food so I had a good laugh at myself when I noticed he was eating on day 4 and eating well by day 10. I was so worried. It is weird how sensitive they are to new environments but territory makes a ton of sense. Compared to dogs and cats which are social animals and bond with their new human quickly torts “love” their space not us so acclimating takes longer.
  19. Team Gomberg

    Team Gomberg IXOYE 5 Year Member

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    Ok. Well, that makes sense that he adjusts to the moves simply because he's a leopard. Especially because I'm not viewed as a "food god" for the simple reason that I rarely ever feed him. **he grazes the lawn naturally, he's not straved**
  20. tglazie

    tglazie Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I had an interesting experience relating to this recently. I had to do some fence/tree work that took up the better part of the past weekend in the paddock of Mr. Lucky, my Hermann's tortoise. Now, I used to foster tortoises when I was younger and more involved in the STHS, and my experience mirrored Yvonne's quite closely. Now, I haven't had any new additions to my group in a little while, aside from some baby rads and freshly hatched margies, and I've usually found babies tend to be somewhat flexible when it comes to change. I don't know if this is because I'm always exposing them to changes (bath time in the morning, outside enclosure until ten, indoors for the lunch break, bath time in the evening; lots of daily changes), but I've always found them to be flexible so long as there was a certain predictability to the changes. I'm not sure.

    Anyway, Mr. Lucky is an adult male eastern Hermanns, and as a member of his species, he is actually very much on the bold side, which is really saying something. Basically, he's a giant jerk who runs up anyone who enters his territory (me, any person, birds that drink from his water bowl in the evening, my cat Stanky, my uncle's ridiculous red heeler, anyone). And he is not enticed by anything less than a strawberry. Bottom line, if you're in his territory, he is going to want to fight you. Funny thing is that I have a Greek who is the exact same way, only he's smarter, because he learned a long time ago to be nice to me as the bringer of food. Mr. Lucky, though, he doesn't care about food, unless it's a piece of tantalizing fruit, which he only gets once every few months. But given this behavior, I can't work on the fence or sheer tree limbs near his enclosure, given that he won't just stay away near his shelter where I can keep an eye on him. The mean little jerk wants to come up and pick a fight with me anytime I'm in the vicinity.

    So, I put some spare cinder blocks together in an unused area of my property under a cedar tree that I've yet to cut down, and I moved him over there while I did some work. Now, first day, he's excited, pacing all about the place, grazing. Next day, I've never seen that tortoise so sad. Interestingly enough, I realized, I had never moved him for longer than a few hours at a time. I mean, sure, he's gone to see the vet, been temporarily placed elsewhere when I needed to do some work, but this was some serious fence work that I had to do on my own, plus the tree trimming, so, he had to stay moved for two days. And he was just totally sad. I would go over to him during my breaks to try and illicit a fight response, and he was having none of it. Funny thing is that when I returned him to his enclosure, he was still pretty sad. He's also seemingly not yet recovered, given that he's not his usual bullish self. This morning, though, he stormed passed some collard greens I threw out there for him to come confront me at the perimeter, so I think he's finally getting back to his conflict loving self. But that couple of days really seemed to throw him.

    But yes, tortoises don't like change, and I've noticed it pretty consistently from species to species. They all have their own way of dealing with it, and some are worse about it than others, but none of them seem to especially relish it. Some respond with hostility. I remember my sulcata Jerry, God rest him, and his tendency to rub his backside against anything new I added to his enclosure. I'd temporarily place a pot within the walls of his territory, or set down a shovel or anything, and he would walk by and bump it. I don't know why he would do this. Scent marking? Who knows.

    T.G.
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