By mid to late Spring, tortoises put into hibernation over the Winter, should be well awake.
- Tortoises should begin to eat within 2 weeks of awaking – if not, consult a vet who will advise on force-feeding to “get the tortoise going” if necessary.
- An ideal diet for a tortoise should consist mainly of a selection of wild growing leaves and weeds (eg dandelions, sow thistle, clover). You can also include grass, cucumber, frozen (defrosted) mixed vegetables, fresh fruit, watercress, cauliflower, beans and peas. The diet should be high fibre and low in protein and should not contain any meat products.
- Always have fresh water available and a piece of cuttlefish to gnaw on.
- Tortoises, particularly younger ones, can suffer from worms. This makes it hard for the tortoise to put on enough weight through the summer to sustain it through the unnaturally long hibernation period if this country. If you are concerned about your tortoise, your vet can confirm this if you take him a faecal sample from your tortoise.
- For these reasons regular worming is recommended. For prevention a twice-yearly injection would be wise. Your vet will be able to give you more information about these injections and will be able to assess your tortoise’s requirements accordingly.
- The sexing of tortoises is quite straightforward. Tails of male tortoises are often longer and wider at the base than in females. The cloaca (rear opening) of the male is further back than the females when compared with the edge of the shell. Male tortoises have a concavity in the rear half of the underside (plastron) to enable them to mate.
- It is possible to neuter a tortoise. However, at present, unless the tortoise is experiencing problems with the laying of eggs, neutering of tortoises is rarely carried out, as it is a relatively high-risk procedure. Female tortoises can hold male sperm in them (sperm retention) and produce eggs several years later so if they have already been mixed they may already have the capacity to produce eggs.
For further information and advice on the keeping of tortoises, you can log on to the Tortoise Trust website www.tortoisetrust.org.