This post starts with a short story
Recently, my husband was in our front yard tending to the garden, when a woman and her daughter pulled up in their pick-up truck. The woman asked my husband if he had seen a tortoise wandering the neighborhood, too, which, my husband responded “No.” As it turns out, the woman is one of our neighbors from a few streets over, and her 20-year old Sulcata tortoise had gotten out of their yard.
How strange is it to be asked if you had seen a tortoise wandering the neighborhood? Now, I have heard of loose dogs and cats, but a tortoise?
Meet our neighbor’s three tortoises:
Shelly, who is 20 years old and weighs about 80 pounds
Cesar, who is about 10 years old and weighs about 20 pounds
Sprinkles, a hatchling at less than a year old
Well, needless to say, after meeting this motley crew of tortoises, I fell in love and had to get one. It took a day or two to convince my husband, but he eventually came around. Now meet our two little babies, Bulldozer (left) and Shelby (right).
As they are both less than a year old, they fit in the palm of my hand; and I just love to hold them and pet them under their chins.
So “why a Sulcata tortoise?” you may ask. Well after speaking with our neighbor and doing some research (I am a researcher after all), we learned that they make very good pets and are relatively easy to care for in captivity. There are a lot of resources available to help teach you what you need to know before selecting a tortoise as a pet, such as reptile magazines, websites, and Facebook groups. Here are a few specific links to information on caring for a sulcata tortoise:
- Avian & Exoxtic Animal Hospital of Louisiana
- San Diego Turtle and Tortoise Society
- B&B Pet Stop Inc., Mobile, Alabama
One thing that we have learned since adopting our two little ones, is that people will often call them turtles. Well, there is a simple difference between tortoises and turtles. Tortoises are completely terrestrial, meaning they live on land, and turtles live in water for a good portion of their life (for instance, sea turtles that come out to lay their eggs on the beach).
We have been enjoying our new pets, and we look forward to watching them grow. Our daily routine with them is rather simple. First, a few days a week, we let them soak in dish tub with about 1/2-inch of water – just enough for them to soak for about 15-20 minutes and get some needed hydration. During this time, we get their food together, which typically consists of grass and weeds from the yard and a variety of lettuce. On occasion, we will feed them a variety of edible flowers (Bulldozer love begonias) and/or fruits and vegetables. Once they are done soaking in the water, we place them in a large tub on the back porch so that they can get some healthy sun. I will say that they are voracious eaters; we even saw Bulldozer pull a piece of lettuce out of Shelby’s mouth one morning.
At night, we bring them into the house where they are safe, and we put them in their tortoise enclosure box.
Here is a simple list of supplies that you will need to get yourself started with an adorable baby Sulcara tortoise:
- Wooden Tortoise Box (as seen above)
- Coconut chip substrate
- Ultraviolet (UVB) and Heat lamps – make sure to use UVB!
- Shallow food and water dishes – we use small terracotta dishes
- Cave or Hideout large enough for them to get some shade and privacy
- Dish tub for soaking
- Large plastic tub for use outdoors – we use a 90-quart storage bin
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