Why is my Leopard Tortoise so small at 15 years old?

Maro2Bear

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Hi there! Seems like our professionals have already pitched in with some excellent advise. One thing I'd like to add is "watering" your Tortoise. And I don't just mean soakings, but something that simulates rain. In my case I use one of those mobile sprinklers that sit on a tripod.

Every day I turn the sprinkler on for about an hour during the hottest part of the day (around 2pm) and they just get SUPER active. They walk all around the enclosure, climb on things, they go in their pond, and it helps keeps the soil in their enclosure moist which they seem to enjoy.

But best of all, they start devouring whatever greens I've set out for them, and drink more water. I'm sure there is a scientific explanation of why this type of stimulation encourages such behavior... I've seen a lot of other tortoise owners (with different breeds) that do the same thing with the same results.

Does anyone else "water" their tortoises? How often are you doing it? What type of behavior are you seeing?

Our Sully (7 years & 125 lbs) just loves our Summer thunderstorms! When it’s pouring cats n dogs, Ms Sully is out dancing. When it doesnt rain, i take a 3 gallon watering can full of warm room temp rain water & slowly drizzle from head to toe. She just loves this ritual - head out, limbs extended. I’m positive she extends & positions her head judt right so water runs down her neck, over the head & nose & into the open mouth.
 

Tom

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This was shared amongst a professional zookeeper page. I do think slower growth is healthier than fast growth. This goes for most animals.
The zoo community as a whole has completely failed tortoises. There are a few notable exceptions, but we have proven over and over again that slow growth achieved through starvation is not the way to go. Bone density is only bad when people raise tortoises the old wrong way with dry substrate, dehydration and poor diet. In fact sometimes, everything can be done well and the pyramiding that causes the porosity that is mentioned in what you posted here is simply due to growth in conditions that are too dry. This is a subject we've been working with here for over a decade. Much of what is believed by the general public and also in the zoo keeping community is just plain wrong, and been thoroughly proven wrong all over the world many times over. Here is a thread from back in 2010 where we first hashed this out, and much has been learned from much experimentation in the intervening 12 years.

I know a man who breeds Galapagos tortoises and has done so since the 80s. For many years he has been working with AZA facilities. If you worked at zoo with this species, you likely worked with one of his adult animals on a breeding loan. The net result of his efforts is a 50% mortality rate for animals of all ages given to zoos, and the SSP person telling him to stop breeding since his animals were overrepresented in the gene pool. He has now chosen to go a different route with a much better outcome so far. I've personally seen 7 year old zoo-raised animals that are smaller than two year old privately raised animals. If we were to examine bone density, we'd find it to be similar and excellent in both.

People who know both the zoo world and the private reptile keeping sector know the deal on this. Too much bureaucracy in the zoo world, limited budget, limited work hours allowed, severely limited space for animals of this size and nature, high employee turn over, etc... The vast majority of advancement and innovation in reptile husbandry and captive reproduction comes from the private sector and is often shared with zoo personnel who put it in to practice where they are allowed.

I personally know several current and former zookeepers that 100% agree with all of the above, and several more who still don't know any better and still follow the old outdated, incorrect info. This is not an attack on you at all. More an attempt to show you what's up. Debate and discussion are welcome. Feel free to share your thoughts on this matter, and let's both learn what we don't know.
 

Cathie G

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Well Sapphire always lets me know. He either wants to get the heck out of dodge or he just sits there and let's it rain on him He doesn't mind a soak if I gently pour the water over him instead of just sitting him in the water. Maybe it's instinct telling him the water he just fell in could be too deep. He did get a bit afraid when I sprayed him with a plant spaying bottle though so I've never done it again.. A misting is something he enjoy.s though I'm always glad when he stays out in the rain. He knows where to run to if he's not liking the weather 🐢
Whenever I water, I try to get the enclosure and the tortoise wet. I don’t know if she enjoys it, but it couldn’t hurt I suppose
 

SanctuaryHills

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Whenever I water, I try to get the enclosure and the tortoise wet. I don’t know if she enjoys it, but it couldn’t hurt I suppose
In my experience it takes about 30 mins before they display their "excited" state from being watered. Meaning if I spray them quickly with a hose there is not much of a reaction.

It seems like 2 conditions must be met:
1) It's somewhere in the middle of the day with the sun shinning and hot temps.

2) Watering must be somewhat prolonged. I notice the behavior after about half an hour with the sprinkler running but leave it another half hour since they seem to be enjoying it.

Since I do the watering around mid-day, there is enough time for the outdoor enclosure to dry off before sundown. I don't think it would be a good idea to let them sleep in a soaked environment.

By the way if I know it's going to rain I'll of course skip the sprinkler. And since I'm in South Florida that happens pretty often.
 

Cathie G

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In my experience it takes about 30 mins before they display their "excited" state from being watered. Meaning if I spray them quickly with a hose there is not much of a reaction.

It seems like 2 conditions must be met:
1) It's somewhere in the middle of the day with the sun shinning and hot temps.

2) Watering must be somewhat prolonged. I notice the behavior after about half an hour with the sprinkler running but leave it another half hour since they seem to be enjoying it.

Since I do the watering around mid-day, there is enough time for the outdoor enclosure to dry off before sundown. I don't think it would be a good idea to let them sleep in a soaked environment.

By the way if I know it's going to rain I'll of course skip the sprinkler. And since I'm in South Florida that happens pretty often.
Where I was it rained daily around 2 or 3 PM 😊in the summer. Not much in the winter but it can still get hot and dry so they really need fresh water then and movement of the water that can be accomplished with a circulating pump. The ponds and such can get so toxic then from no fresh water flowing through them. That's when I got to see humungus soft shell turtles and large walking catfish on the banks of a pond during a drought in a Florida winter and the circulatory pump wasn't enough.😘
 

beachylivin

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The zoo community as a whole has completely failed tortoises. There are a few notable exceptions, but we have proven over and over again that slow growth achieved through starvation is not the way to go. Bone density is only bad when people raise tortoises the old wrong way with dry substrate, dehydration and poor diet. In fact sometimes, everything can be done well and the pyramiding that causes the porosity that is mentioned in what you posted here is simply due to growth in conditions that are too dry. This is a subject we've been working with here for over a decade. Much of what is believed by the general public and also in the zoo keeping community is just plain wrong, and been thoroughly proven wrong all over the world many times over. Here is a thread from back in 2010 where we first hashed this out, and much has been learned from much experimentation in the intervening 12 years.

I know a man who breeds Galapagos tortoises and has done so since the 80s. For many years he has been working with AZA facilities. If you worked at zoo with this species, you likely worked with one of his adult animals on a breeding loan. The net result of his efforts is a 50% mortality rate for animals of all ages given to zoos, and the SSP person telling him to stop breeding since his animals were overrepresented in the gene pool. He has now chosen to go a different route with a much better outcome so far. I've personally seen 7 year old zoo-raised animals that are smaller than two year old privately raised animals. If we were to examine bone density, we'd find it to be similar and excellent in both.

People who know both the zoo world and the private reptile keeping sector know the deal on this. Too much bureaucracy in the zoo world, limited budget, limited work hours allowed, severely limited space for animals of this size and nature, high employee turn over, etc... The vast majority of advancement and innovation in reptile husbandry and captive reproduction comes from the private sector and is often shared with zoo personnel who put it in to practice where they are allowed.

I personally know several current and former zookeepers that 100% agree with all of the above, and several more who still don't know any better and still follow the old outdated, incorrect info. This is not an attack on you at all. More an attempt to show you what's up. Debate and discussion are welcome. Feel free to share your thoughts on this matter, and let's both learn what we don't know.
I know of whom you're referring to.

We had also received animals from a person who had 2 galops in his personal collection, originally from this person, I assume.
The SSP wasn't created until 81, I am glad to hear this person has adapted. I have not worked on the SSP related side of things regarding breeding and tortoises, but I did work with the SSP and breeding of wolves. Also an animal that is fasted in captivity, often fed 2-3x a week.

We personal cared for our animals extremely well, but I did have colleagues from other zoos share information about their care that made me cringe. This can be said for any field, but the zookeeping community as a whole is filled with people who are very passionate about conservation and quality care.

While tortoises are not mammals, dogs more specifically, large and giant breed dogs are susceptible to Panosteitis, which is painful inflammation in long bones due to a diet that is too rich. This happens regularly because people think that a generic puppy food is sufficient for a giant breed dog. It is not.
Again, while tortoises are not mammals, I wouldn't be surprised if decades from now, we learn that reaching full size at a young age comes with repercussions.
 

Shelled

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I believe you. We had a presentation at the TTPG conference one year about Chersina. The speaker had been to Africa and studied torts in the wild there extensively. He was also interested in botany and noted that here in Southern CA we have about 3000 plant species, while over there in Southern Africa, just one part of the enormous range of the leopard tortoise, there were 22,000+ plant species. He noted that a large percentage of those were succulents, and that there are surprisingly no native cactus specie over there.

The diet studies I've seen on wild leopards indicate that succulents make up a decent percentage of their diet in the wild, along with forbs, grasses, and mammal feces. Was there mammal feces where you saw leopard tortoises in Africa? There was mammal feces and succulents where I saw leopards in Africa.
There are 7 floral kingdoms in the world, each with a high level of endemism. These are:
1: Holarctic (North-America, Europe, Asia)
2: Neotropical (South-America)
3: Australian
4: Paleotropical (Africa, Arabia, India, South-East Asia, Indonesia and Papua New-Guinea)
5: Cape floristic region (southern tip of Africa).

The Cape floristic region is known for the high plant diversity. It's usually referred to as fynbos, indeed with a lot of succulents, and many many species, most of them endemic to the area. But this is only a tiny area where pardalis occurs. It might be interesting to see how their diets differ in fynbos areas versus elsewhere in Africa.
 

Team Gomberg

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Lots of interesting discussion. Just for comparison, this is my 10 year old leopard tortoise Levi. He is due for fresh measurements but he last weighed 30lbs and was 15" long. Here you can see a fairly recent photo of him next to my women's size 9 shoe. He's a bit of a tank.

20220415_170038.jpg

For the comparison purposes I will mention he is likely a pardalis/babcocki hybrid that I raised from a hatchling following @Tom's hot and humid methods. Indoors a warm humid chamber, lots of green growth watered down when outside (in So Cal) and a fully insulated heated house when moved outside full time. Aside from 1 pyramid spot (caused by a CHE dessicating one top spot on his shell when I moved him to another closed chamber I tried to create) he's smooth and very healthy. I'm 100% convinced that their start in life paves the way for their growth as they age. I've tried to raise leopard babies in hot and humid conditions that were started off dry and it's not the same. I have a friend in TX who has been producing leopard babies for 7 ish years now. She starts her off warm and humid and they all flourish too.
 

Zamric

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Thanks Tom! I was actually just googling if he can eat Jade. He has ton of Jade growing in his enclosure but has never shown interest. I will clip some to offer. I did not mention succulents but we do offer him succulents. I have tons of succulents growing on my property, and can definitely offer them more! We used to soak my tortoises at work, for 20 minutes daily. I do not soak my tortoise often, but definitely will change that; he's also very good about soaking himself, but I need to be proactive about it.

It's funny you say his size is good, because in researching on this forum I have see a ton of tortoise that are growing at abnormal rates and was shocked. Tortoises also fast in the wild just due to elements and seasonal changes! Sea turtles typically hit sexual maturity at 20-25 years old in the wild, but the sea turtles I worked with, and others in captivity, hit maturity around 6-8 due to steady diet and temps and no natural fasting. It's wild how the conditions can create so much variation in growth.
I have 2 of the same age. My female Gaia is @12 years old and weighs in at @35lbs. However, Eros my male, is 6 months younger and weighs in at a whopping 12 lbs
 

wellington

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I have 2 of the same age. My female Gaia is @12 years old and weighs in at @35lbs. However, Eros my male, is 6 months younger and weighs in at a whopping 12 lbs
Don't see you much any more. Need updated pics of those beauties.
 
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