Home | Turtles & Tortoises

Category Archives: Turtles & Tortoises

Feed Subscription

Contains articles and advice on a wide variety of turtle and tortoise species. Answers and addresses questions on species husbandry, captive status, breeding, news and conservation issues concerning turtles and tortoises.

Tortoise Rescue: Finding a Home for a Turtle or Tortoise

1535481_643171095725305_447254353_nTurtles and Tortoises are the most popular of all reptilian pets, but first-time owners are often misled by the small size and irresistible cuteness common to hatchlings.  Even after a lifetime of working with hundreds of species, I’m shocked by the growth rates exhibited by Red Eared Sliders, African Spurred Tortoises and other hardy turtles.  Many keepers are not able to provide the space that these commonly-available species need.  It’s also easy to underestimate the time and expense involved in meeting specific needs for diets, mineral supplementation, heat, ultraviolet radiation, vet care and so on.  In this article, I’ll highlight some organizations that may be able to help those who cannot provide a 75 gallon tank for their adult Slider or a ½ acre yard for the Spurred Tortoise that ballooned to 80 pounds in 5 years…or who need to find homes for “less extreme” turtles.  And those readers who wish to adopt turtles in need – often a better option than purchasing – will learn how to do so.

 

Note: Some of the most popular turtles and tortoises are actually among the worst pet-choices for most people…as illustrated by the millions of released Red Eared Sliders that now populate over 30 foreign countries (see photo of  Sliders basking in a pond at the Shitennō-ji Buddhist temple in Osaka, Japan; photo courtesy of Matthew Lu) .  Please see Ideal Pet Choices: Small Turtles and The Best “First Tortoise” before deciding on a new pet.

 

New York Turtle and Tortoise Society

I’m in touch with reptile interest groups from all over the world, but the NY Turtle and Tortoise Society (NYTTS) remains my favorite.  My friends there are both knowledgeable and dedicated, and over the society’s long history have helped thousands of turtles and turtle-owners and supported many young turtle biologists and conservation projects.  Their monthly talks and annual day-long seminars draw some of the world’s best known herpetologists as speakers.  I was proud to have been asked to speak recently, although I suspect this was due more to the charms of my 6-year-old associate than any expertise on my part! (check the photos on the NYTTS website!).

 

shitenno-jiIn common with similar groups, NYTTS’s resources have been overwhelmed by armies of homeless Red Eared Sliders.  Thousands have been placed, but the supply of local homes is now depleted.  However, society members can assist with husbandry information and may be able to point you towards other options.  They can sometimes accommodate other turtle species, and are always happy to hear from folks who wish to provide homes for turtles (especially Sliders, I imagine!).  Please see the NYTTS Website and Facebook page for further information on adoptions.

(Photo above courtesy of Matthew Lu)

Social Tees Animal Rescue

Social Tees’ owner Robert Shapiro and I haunted the same NYC swamps, vacant lots, and pet stores as children, and were influenced by the same reptile-pioneers (most notably dear friend Aldo Passera, who owned a legendary Manhattan pet store, Fang and Claw).  I don’t know anyone who devotes more of him or herself to animal welfare.  Robert has also re-homed thousands of other reptiles, cats and dogs, along with some birds, spiders, fish…he does whatever it takes, and has an extensive network of placement contacts.  If you wish to place or adopt an animal, or to help Social Tees in its important work, please check the website or call 212-614-9653.

 

WITH LARGE MATA MATACalifornia Turtle and Tortoise Society

CTTS is well-known for assisting the California Department of Fish and Game with the placement and conservation of the endangered Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii).  Their success in re-homing a wide variety of other native and exotic species is also impressive, as you can see from their adoption statistics.  CTTS takes great pains to assure that the turtles under their care are placed in appropriate homes, and generally only considers adopting to folks living within a region that is served by a CTTS chapter.  They also provide excellent care info and other guidance.

 

Forgotten Friends Reptile Sanctuary

I first met the kind folks at FFRS while participating in events held at ThatFishPlace-ThatPetPlace in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (if you have a chance to visit the store, do so – I’ve been to pet stores on several continents, but was overwhelmed by the selection and service here…no way to do it justice in this article!).

 

FFRS is run with a distinct personal touch – prospective owners are emailed when turtles or other reptiles become available – and each situation is given individual attention.  The group also has an extensive network of contacts, and so may be able to assist even if you are not in the immediate area…and for a $20 donation you receive 4 excellent pocket field guides covering all of PA’s reptiles and amphibians!

 

Spurred Tortoise

Uploaded to Wijkipedia Commons by Baseballchck02 (Melissa Mitchell)

Austin’s Turtle Page

I often post articles and participate in discussions on Austin’s Turtle Page.  I urge you to check out this wonderful turtle care and natural history resource.  The adoption forum lists a wide variety of turtles located throughout the USA.

 

Post Below for Other Contacts

I maintain contacts with numerous herp societies in the USA and other countries.  Please post below if you need assistance in finding a home for your turtle or tortoise, or wish to help out by adopting one.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

Tortoise Care: an Overview

Keeping Sliders, Painted Turtles & Map Turtles

The Best Small Turtle Pets for Reptile Enthusiasts with Limited Space

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  The world’s most popular pet turtle, the Red Eared Slider, is a poor choice for those lacking space for a huge aquarium and filter.  A number of smaller, less active turtles are easier to accommodate in homes and classrooms.  Today I’ll cover some of my favorite aquatic, semi-aquatic and terrestrial species, all of which are being bred in captivity.  Unless otherwise stated, all can be kept in a 20-30 gallon aquarium or similarly-sized plastic bin.  This list is by no means exhaustive, so please be sure to post your own choices and share your experiences below.  Please see the linked articles and post below for in depth information on care and breeding.

Common Musk Turtle, hatchling

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Karlwj1985

Common Musk Turtle, Sternotherus odoratus

As I type this article, I’m being watched by a Musk Turtle that I acquired in 1969, so I can vouch for their hardiness!

Found across a wide chunk of eastern North America, females rarely exceed 4 inches in length, while males average 3 inches.

As turtles go, these engaging little guys are quite simple to care for.  Reptomin can comprise 50-60% of the diet, with the balance being supplied by other aquatic turtle foods, earthworms, freeze dried shrimp, and minnows. Read More »

Swollen Eyes in Red Eared Sliders and other Aquatic Turtles

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Swollen, inflamed eyes are commonly seen in a wide variety of captive turtles.  Strangely, the hardy Red Eared Slider seems especially prone to this annoying and potentially life-threatening condition (as we’ll see, popular feeding practices may partially explain this).  From childhood through my career as a herpetologist, standard wisdom has blamed the condition on a Vitamin A deficiency. Today we also know that poor water quality is responsible for many, if not most, of the eye problems seen in Sliders, Cooters, Painted Turtles and similar species.  In this article we will look at the symptoms, causes, prevention and treatment of various turtle eye maladies.

HAIDEN , TURTLE, CLOSESymptoms

Most eye problems first manifest as a slight but noticeable puffiness of the eyelids.  Vitamin A deficiencies and fungal/bacterial infections can cause tissue within and around the eyes to degrade.  As a result, epithelial cell “debris” collects along the eye rims and under the lids. Pressure and irritation causes the lids and tear ducts to swell. Read More »

Turtle and Tortoise Eggs – Knowing When She is Ready to Lay

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  In the course of my work, I am often contacted by turtle owners whose pets cease feeding and become unusually restless.  The behavior appears suddenly, sometimes after many uneventful years – a Common Musk Turtle did so after 22 years in my collection – and seems to have no external cause.  A normally placid turtle may begin frantically paddling or wandering about, trying to climb the sides of the terrarium and escape.  Food, once the focus of the creature’s existence, is ignored.

Common Snappers hatching

Uploaded by Frank Indiviglio

It surprises some folks to learn that turtle and tortoise eggs may develop even if the female has never mated, and that mated animals may retain sperm and produce fertile eggs years later.  Unfortunately, gravid (egg-bearing) turtles can be very choosy when it comes to nesting sites…a ½ acre exhibit failed to satisfy some I’ve cared for at the Bronx Zoo!  If the eggs are not deposited, blockages due to over-calcification and life-threatening infections invariably result.  Fortunately, there are ways to “convince” your pet to lay her eggs; failing this, several effective veterinary options are available.

What To Do

If your female turtle or tortoise suddenly stops feeding and begins to act as described above, first check that something has not gone wrong in the environment.  Overheating, Lysol poured into the tank by a mischievous child (actual story), or cage-mate aggression can all cause similar behaviors.

If you suspect eggs, your best option would be to have radiographs done by a veterinarian (please post below if you need help in locating an experienced vet).  Your vet can determine how many eggs are present, approximately how far along they are in their development, and if problems related to unusual size or over-calcification can be expected.  Also, other health issues that may cause similar symptoms can be investigated. Read More »

The Best Pet Tortoise – Greek Tortoise and Golden Greek Tortoise Care

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I do not believe that any tortoise species can be classified as “easy-to-keep”, but several are better-suited as pets than others.  I’ve covered on of these, the Russian Tortoise (Testudo horsfieldi), in an earlier article (read article here).  The Greek Tortoise (T. graeca), while interesting enough for the most seasoned hobbyist, may also be the best pet tortoise, and an ideal choice for first-time keepers.  Topping out at 8 inches in length, captive-bred individuals are readily available.  They are as personable as any of their relatives, and decades of popularity among European keepers has left us with a good understanding of their needs. I’ll summarize these in the following article, and will also draw from my own experiences with this and related species during my long career at the Bronx Zoo.

Greek Tortoise (Tunisia)

Uploaded to wikipedia commons by Richard Mayer

A Note on Classification

Also known as the Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoise (not to be confused with Africa’s Spurred Tortoise, Geochelone sulcata), the Greek Tortoise is one of the smaller of the world’s 53 tortoise species.

Its taxonomy is somewhat complicated, with up to 13 subspecies being recognized.  Traditionally, T. g. ibera comprised the bulk of those in the pet trade, and it remains the most widely-bred subspecies.  The parent stock seems to have originated mainly from Turkey. Read More »

Scroll To Top