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Ojai Sulcata Project

Discussion in 'Debatable Topics' started by Sticky Feets, Feb 27, 2018.

  1. Sticky Feets

    Sticky Feets Member

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    So I stumbled upon a tortoise youtuber who has switched from an open air enclosure for her tortoises to one with an enclosed canopy top (like the triangle shaped greenhouses some of you use). In one of her old videos she stated that hatchlings should be set up in an open air tub and I asked if she still recommends that. She replied yes, but recently is trying an enclosed top to keep up the humidity for a project to test out the new method. But she also stated that she does not follow the 80/80 rule, that she read about the risks of keeping tortoises in high humidity enclosures but is also open to the fact that people should do their own research and come up with their own conclusions on how to raise their hatchlings.

    So this lead me to look for sources that follow other recommendations and see what their results have been and found the Ojai Sulcata Project, which pretty much states the opposite of everything that closed chambers are about. I searched the entire site and couldn't find too many pics of their tortoises that they raised from hatchlings. I DID find a pic of hatchlings that already looked like they were starting to pyramid too. Just placing this topic here in case anyone else has found sources that recommend anything other than closed chambers and what their tortoises looked like.

    I've been commenting on random tortoise videos about how I raise Hoppy in a closed chamber and have gotten a few comments saying that it's wrong. I even got one that claimed they raised 2 tortoises in a tortoise table since hatchlings and neither have pyramiding, which I find hard to believe. But I also don't have photographic evidence. I'm still choosing the 80/80 closed chamber method because of the hard documentation you guys have all provided with successfully stopping pyramiding.

    Here's the link to the Ojai Sulcata Project, it's not much but have at it:
    http://ojaisulcataproject.org/index.html
  2. Yvonne G

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

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    Not sure, but if memory serves, most of their sulcatas came to them as adults. I don't know that they've talked much about babies they've raised.
  3. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    Here are some of the replies I've typed every time this site comes up:

    March 2016: "We go through this every few months. That website was put up years ago by my friend Dave. He and I talk on the phone from time to time and he has personally, after much discussion with many people, relented that I might be right about some of this stuff. Dave is a great guy, but he is very old school in his methods and his failing health prevents him from keeping up with current tortoise husbandry practices. Following the tips on his site will not usually bring good results. I would love for someone to get a baby, follow Dave's advice and prove me wrong, but I know how it will end, because I did it Dave's way for many years. Dave has not ever done it my way."

    Jan 2013: "Dave (Ojai Sulcata Project) is a friend. He's a good man and he and I have started, but never finished, the pyramiding discussion three different times. He was steadfastly against a lot of these new opinions at first, but each time we talk he seems more open minded about it than the last. He is beginning to see some sense in the things I recommend, and I've been taking in what he recommends and giving it a try too. Clearly I do things my way and explain why and how it works, but Dave also truly cares about sulcatas and has dedicated his life to them. He is worthy of great respect."

    May 2015: "That website and organization is headed by a man I'm proud to call friend. Dave Friend. HA!
    Seriously though, I've had several conversations with Dave about this subject. He's been keeping sulcatas a long time and he parrots the old outdated incorrect info. When he saw all the hoopla about humidity and hydration, he made that website to counter what he saw as blasphemous, revolutionary, info that was so contrary to the info he'd been following for so many years. The problem was that the old info, Dave's beloved info, is based on all sorts of incorrect assumptions. Over the years we have learned more about how sulcatas actually live in the wild. We've learned from this new info, as well as tons of observation of the results of keeping sulcatas in a wide variety of captive environments, and we simply KNOW BETTER NOW.

    Dave is a great guy and he always means well. Since creating that text he has largely opened his mind due to the influence of many people and has personally recanted to me in phone conversations. He, like everyone else, cannot argue with the results.

    Here is what I continually propose to anyone who questions all this and doesn't know what to do: Get 12 sulcata hatchlings and raise 6 my way, and 6 the old dry way. Raise them side by side in their different enclosures and feed them the same quantity of the same food. The results will be astounding and you too will understand which methods are better and why. If you don't feel you have the time, money or interest in doing such a study, that's okay. Its been done for you thousands of times here on the forum and out in the world."

    November 2014: "Dave, the man who wrote that, is now a friend of mine. He seemed to have written it to promote the old fashioned outdated ways of doing things and refute the new findings that I and others had been producing at the time. Many of his assertions about the wild are just plain wrong. A fact that he and I both learned when we met and spent time with Tomas Diagne, who is a sulcata researcher from Senegal, where they are native. For example, Dave says humidity in their natural range is 45-50%. It is almost never in that range. During the dry season when the sulcatas are deep underground, humidity is much lower than that above ground. During the 3-4 month rainy season, ambient humidity in wild sulcata territory is much higher than that. Where did he get that number? I don't know. Tomas confirmed the things that I was promoting and offered a whole lot of new and novel info to us. My friend Dave has since recanted much of what he said on that care sheet due to conversations with me, Tomas and many others. Yet his old info remains on the web for other people to see and have their brains muddled by contradictory info on how to care for their babies. Dave has been having a lot of health issues of late and I suspect that changing the old website is a low priority. He's a good man and I like him, but we disagreed about some key husbandry points in the past. We don't disagree now.

    The proof is also very evident as Mike pointed out. Get yourself 12 hatchlings. Raise 6 my way and 6 Dave's way. The difference in results will be obvious. I have done this. I have done many variations of this over many years. I have started and raised hundreds of them in so many ways. If Dave's assertions were true that what I recommend is "wrong and unnatural", then wouldn't my babies fail and do poorly? Yet in reality it is just the opposite. I show Dave pics of my results from hatching to two years old and his eyes got real big. None of his look so good and healthy. Mine look more like they do in the wild. His less so. I don't just have a 100% survival rate for babies that I hatch and start, I have a 100% THRIVE rate for babies I hatch and start. Notice there are no pics of 6 month old or 12 month old tortoises on Dave's site and care sheet there? No 18 or 24 month old pics? There is a reason for that. I have pics of these ages all over the place on my threads.

    You will have to choose whose advice you wish to follow. In time you will figure out and learn which ways work best and produce good results. It has been a 20+ year journey for me to figure this all out. I hope I can share what I've learned and shorten your journey considerably."

    Jan 2012: "No disrespect to anyone, especially ripper7777777, but I strongly disagree with Dave's info on sulcatas for babies. (Dave Friend is the owner of the Ojai Sulcata Project) I know Dave personally and have had several conversations with him on this. Some history: Dave's an old school guy. He's also a good guy and loves tortoises to no end. He wants the best for all sulcatas, as do I, and we just disagree about what is "best". For many years the old school methods failed me and everyone else. Through lots of time, study, observation and experimentation, I have found new methods that don't fail and result in "natural" looking, healthy tortoises. Dave seems to have found my new info and set his site up specifically questioning and attempting to debunk each point. He and I have much more to discuss and have never finished our conversation, but so far we disagree on many points. I respect and admire this man, so don't get me wrong, but I did not see any hatchlings at his place on a recent visit, and I believe most of his info is great for older, bigger sulcatas, but not for tiny babies. Just remember that everyone seems to have an opinion on all this, but when I make a decision on whose opinion to listen to, I want to see results. I have not seen Dave's results, but I am working on a collaboration with him to try his methods at my place and post the results. Which reminds me, I've gotta get in touch with him…"

    April 2012: "That website is run by a man named Dave Friend. He's a good guy and has lots of tortoises. He and I completely disagree on many aspects of captive care and we've discussed it many times, but never had the time to finish a discussion. We are supposed to meet up and hash it out. I've toured his facility and saw many older tortoises that are in his care, but I did not see any hatchlings or babies that he was raising. I see his methods as a mix of some old school stuff and some new stuff, most of which I happen to disagree with. He like many others assumes that babies come from a dry desert area and should be kept dry. He was hosting a tortoise researcher named Tomas Diagne who gave a presentation on wild sulcatas in his home country of Senegal. Tomas informed us that the only wild hatchlings he had ever seen were in a marsh during the rainy season. The temperatures in the sulcatas range reach the 90's on a cool day and 100-114 most days. Know one knows, but I think it is safe to assume that the babies find cool moist refuge underground just like the adults do. So in answer to Dave's question of "Who soaks them every day in the wild?" My answer is, "Mother Nature. They hatch in or near marsh areas in the rainy season!"
    Here's another way to look at it: Look around at the pics on this site of people raising tortoises using some form of the "wet routine". You will never see healthier, smoother, better looking tortoises anywhere. No disrespect, but I saw no tortoises that looked anywhere near as good as some of the tortoises on this site at Dave's place.

    Email Dave at the address on his site. He's a nice man and cares very much about tortoises. He'll take the time to explain his theories and correspond with you. Ask to see pics of babies raised his way and compare them to any number of the ones you see here on TFO."



    Anyhow, you get the idea...
    Sticky Feets and Jay Bagley like this.
  4. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member

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    I’m glad @Tom responded (a few times).... I was starting to scratch my head on a few issues that seem counter to many of the agreed upon husbandry practices for Sulcatas. For example, under the Hydration and Housing Section, temps...infrared bulbs...pig blankets...soaking..
    • Sulcata tortoises do not need to be kept at 60°F (15.5°C) or above at night! Let those babies cool down at night, no nightlights, no pig blankets. Your house temperatures are fine, maybe even too high. Some of my sulcatas will slow way down in the winter and not come out for several days, maybe a week or more.
    • Infrared bulbs - I use one and sometimes two – are suspended from the ceilings in the tortoise barns. I never use pig blankets for purposes of heating; the burrow floors are not heated.
    • I do not soak any of my sulcata tortoises, large or small. I do keep water available at all times for them.
    I’m planning to stick with advice provided by @Tom and @Yvonne G and other “proven winners” here on the Forum.
    Sticky Feets and vladimir like this.
  5. Sticky Feets

    Sticky Feets Member

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    Yup, as a med student, we use what's called evidence-based medicine, meaning we use techniques and medications that have been shown through many studies and other clinical evidence to have the best results. And who knows, maybe someone else will discover an even better way to raise these tortoises. I'm just now discovering how difficult it can be to sway people from old school methods. Thank you to Tom and Yvonne and everyone else that keeps on educating new tortoise keepers as they pop up on this forum. And sorry for bringing up the project again, I should have done a search first before making a new thread. Didn't realize that website was so popular.
  6. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Anyone reading this. Do yourself and your tortoise a big favor and ignore all the info outside of this forum.
    Chances are real good they don't know what they are talking about and your tortoise will pay for it.
    They usually are people that just wants to be in a video and won't admit the truth. If they can't show pictures then what are they hiding!
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