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Tortoises as Pets

We have been receiving many requests for information on tortoises and especially where to get one.

London dealers sell captive-bred tortoises for 150 gbps to 200 gbps a time. As the importation of wild-caught Mediterranean tortoises - the typical pet -has been banned since 1984 for welfare and conservation reasons, a captive-bred specimen is now the only legal solution.

If you do invest in an ordinary pet tortoise, buy two, as they are sociable creatures.
In early spring a male on his own will move heaven and earth in his efforts to get out to find a female, yet with company he is quite content.
The Tortoise Trust has a free advice service and can supply an introductory pack,as well as care information booklets and videos.
Send a Stamped Addressed Envelope (SAE) to the Tortoise Trust, BM Tortoise,London, WC1N 3XX, or on the web at

Tortoises Haven't Vanished as Pets

Contrary to popular belief, pet tortoises are not as scarce as it might seem and can still be bought in good pet shops.

Spur-thighed tortoises are one of the two species commonly associated with garden pet tortoises, originating from the countries around the Mediterranean. The other is the Hermanns.

Looked after properly and not allowed to get too cold and damp, tortoises can live a very long time. We acquired one recently which was at least 40 years of age, and as healthy and as heavy a tortoise as you could ever hope to find.

As most pet owners fully appreciate, the importation of these tortoises has been banned since 1984. This ban was pioneered by the RSPCA. They were appalled at the wholesale collecting from the wild and the subsequent misery and deaths of the unfortunate animals.
Back in the 1960' and 1970s, I saw crates of tortoises being unpacked at wholesalers where the animals were stacked two deep. Thankfully, this cannot occur now.

Of course, on a visit to a large pet store you may see other tortoises for sale. Some are terrapins which are a water-living turtle, not a tortoise. When these terrapins become mature and large, many stores no longer stock them.
If an owner cannot find a zoo or another reptile enthusiast to take them, what are they to do? These Red-Eared Terrapins, or sliders, as they are known in the states, are nearly all hatched on turtle farms so the problem is one of "welfare", not conservation.
The other tortoises you may encounter are nearly all babies of the large tropical varieties.
A healthy tortoise should feel as dense, relatively, as a cricket ball, when compared to a tennis ball. If your tortoise feels light, it probably has not been properly fed.

With the change to a British food supply in captivity, you could face problems if the tortoise stubbornly refuses to eat unfamiliar plants.


THE normal lifespan for a pet tortoise should be between 60 and 90 years.

And some of the giant tortoises we have at the zoo will reach 150, or even 240 in the case of the enormous Aldabrans.

Yet most of the thousands that have been imported into Britain over the last 40 years are dead.

The vast majority died through neglect and ignorance. Digestive upsets and colic caused by living on cold and uninsulated floors are the major culprits.

Tortoises depend on their surroundings for their body heat. Cold floors reduce the temperature of their shells underneath so that their digestive processes cannot function properly, resulting in an agonising and usually fatal colic.

Because of this very high death rate, the RSPCA managed to get a ban in the importation of pet tortoises in 1984.

As a result of that ban, the price of tortoises has risen from about 2.50 to well into three figures now.

So it is now worth trying to breed them on a semi-commercial basis. They are relatively easy to breed, though it does take time before you have groups set up properly.

To get round some of the restrictive legislation some hobbyists are breeding varieties of tropical tortoises like Sulcata, which cost around 90.


Turtles and Tortoises

- 240 species. " Box " shell of bony plates incorporates the ribs and is surrounded by horny scales. This strong structure provides protection from predation. Shell is in two parts:

Plastron - below

Carapace - above

Horny " beaks " present instead of teeth. Eggs are laid in nests dugout by the mother in sand, earth or rotting vegetation.
Environment: Marine (sea water), Aquatic (fresh water), Terrestrial(land).

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