Naked Science Forum

Life Sciences => Plant Sciences, Zoology & Evolution => Topic started by: Don_1 on 25/04/2015 14:56:18

Title: How do you care for a Tortoise?
Post by: Don_1 on 25/04/2015 14:56:18
An article was published in the Daily Mail on the 17th of April.

You can read it here - (

Perhaps not surprisingly, this article was closed to comments after just two people expressed their concerns. (go to the bottom of the page).

The article was not just misleading, but wholly wrong and even dangerous on so many points.

To begin with, the author (Constance Craig Smith), wrote:

More than 150,000 of them were imported from countries like Spain and Greece to the UK every year and, shamefully, itís estimated that four-fifths of tortoises died in the first year of captivity, mostly during the winter because they werenít looked after properly during hibernation.

In fact, it is estimated that more than 10 million animals were taken from the wild to satisfy demand in the pet trade for the UK. Around 9 million of them died before they even got to the UK and around 900,000 of those which did get here alive, died within their first year in captivity.

Incorrect hibernation was certainly a main contributory factor in the death of so many of these animals, as was incorrect feeding and a host of other poor and ill-informed husbandry practices.

If you were looking for good information on the care of tortoises, you most certainly would not have found it in this article.

Quote from: Constance Craig Smith
Few garden plants are fatally toxic to tortoises ....

Not true. In fact a number of garden plants and wild plants can be fatal or at least make a tortoise very unwell. Lobelia and Hellebore (Christmas Rose) are among common garden plants which can poison a tortoise and the common weed, Groundsel.

As for the diet set out in the article, cabbages, cauliflowers & spring greens, are NOT suitable as they are high in oxalic acid, which prevents the absorption of essential calcium. Fruits, such as tomato and cucumber are also inappropriate as are strawberries, peaches & plums. In fact, the high sugar levels can be dangerous.

Wild plants such dandelion, hawk bits, sow thistle, clover, chicory etc. should comprise 100% of their diet.

Missing from the on-line article, but in the hard copy 'Weekend' supplement,  the author indicated that a tortoise might hibernate for 5 months! NEVER, hibernate a tortoise for such a long period, IT WILL starve. 3 months is about the maximum hibernation period for an adult.

Also missing from the on-line version of this article, but printed in the hard copy, is a photo to illustrate how suitable tortoises are for children's pets. It shows a young girl kissing a tortoise's shell!!!


I hope I don't need to explain why.

The only thing the article got right, was to advise people to visit the web sites of the Tortoise Trust and the Tortoise Protection Group for more information. Hopefully, Mail readers will do so and thus learn how wrong this article is. ( (

I should point out that hibernation, estivation, humidity, temperatures, habitat and dietary requirements differ from species to species. What suits a Mediterranean Spur Thigh tortoise would be wholly unsuitable for a Red Foot tortoise and what suits these two species would be life threatening to a Leopard tortoise.