Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Boo, aka the mystery tort

Boo is my most recent tortoise rescue. He is an Antakyan Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca antakyensis). I have only had him for 3 weeks, and he is VERY shy.

This is what you see when you try to visit with Boo while he is soaking...
I have been searching our local Craigslist for a female Russian tortoise for a long time (still haven't found one... so many males!) On one of my weekly "tortoise" searches, a listing in 'farm and garden' for a 'Tahitian tortoise' caught my eye. At first I was just intrigued. I did a google image search for 'Tahitian tortoise' and only came up with some fancy glasses and pens, a galapagos tortoise at the Tahitian zoo, and a sea turtle. I asked some folks on the tortoise forums, and nobody had ever heard of a Tahitian tortoise. I finally contacted the owner to find out more.

The owner was adamant that it was a 'Tahitian' tortoise, and that she purchased it from the breeder in Seattle at a reptile show 6 years ago as a yearling, hatched 2005. She just wanted to find a good home for it, because her son lost interest. I asked her for some pictures, which she sent. The owner bragged that the tort had a metal ring drilled into the back of his shell (yikes!). He was being kept in a tiny 20 gal aquarium without UV light. He didn't seem to have much pyramiding though, which is probably due to the fact that they kept him tethered by his ring outside in the yard during the Summer, so at least he was getting UVB then. The rest of the year they fed him romaine lettuce and carrots.
This is the first pic the previous owner sent me. Can you see how overgrown the beak is?!
Aside from wanting to have the tort due to the 'cute' factor, it sounded like this tort wasn't being cared for properly. I talked to my husband and to some folks on my favorite tort forum, and decided to go for it. I met the previous owner at a Shell station out in the boonies near where she lived. The tort came with his 20 gal aquarium filled with dry bark chips that REEKED of cigarette smoke, a hide log, and a lamp fixture that had a garage-type spotlight in it (which by the way was burnt out).

Once I was home, the first thing I did was to run a warm soaking bath for the little mystery tort. The owner told me that this kind of tortoise doesn't need water, and that she soaked it once every week or so... so I just assumed it was probably dehydrated.
Boo soaking. He still had his ring. Isn't he pretty though?!
Then I proceeded to throw away the icky smoke-stinking bark chips. I washed out the little tank, and filled it with a flat rock on one end and some 50:50 moistened coconut coir sand mix. The tiny tank would have to do until I built a nice big tort table, since my 'rescue' table was currently occupied by Mo.

Back view - this was still during the first bath, so the ring is still in.
I decided to name the little mystery tort "Boo" because we got him the day after Halloween, and because he was so shy. I couldn't even (and still haven't been able to) trim Boo's terribly overgrown beak, since he covers his face with his legs and pulls into his shell so far that nobody can reach him.

Top view of Boo's carapace, still with the ring.
I took this to help folks on the forum identify what kind of tortoise we had. 
Of course after his first bath I removed the metal ring from Boo's shell - no tortoise should be tethered! This was harder than I thought it would be, it must have been stainless steel or something... but in the end, I cut it in half and got it out.

After his bath, I placed Boo into his little tank, and placed a ceramic heat lamp on one end. Since the floodlight the owner sent along with him was burnt out, I wasn't sure if he'd been kept warm enough, so I wanted to make sure he had the option to bask if he wanted to. The next day I 'borrowed' the UVB light from Mo, and ordered a new UVB fixture and tube light for Boo, as well as a new basking light. Until those arrived, I just moved the UVB back and forth between Mo's table and Boo's tank.

I took this pic of the bottom of Boo's shell to help identify him.
Knowing exactly what kind of tort I had just rescued would help me properly care for him, so I set out on a quest for proper classification. My initial guess was that it could be a Hermann's tortoise, however, this guess was quickly refuted when I posted a pic of him on the Hermann's tortoise forum. Someone said that they thought he was a Greek, though for his age he is pretty small. Researching Greek tortoises led me to thinking he could be a Tunisian Greek tortoise (which kind of sounds like "Tahitian" so maybe the previous owner misunderstood?). However, an expert on the forum said that Boo's markings weren't quite right for a Tunisian - that he is an Antakyan greek tortoise (Testudo graeca antakyensis). Lucky for me, the care for this kind of Greek is very similar to the captive care of Russian torts. Of course I will not keep them together - mixing species is a bad idea, as they can transmit parasites and pathogens, and might also fight each other.

Boo bathing. No more ring!
I am finding that Boo is a VERY picky eater. His old owner used to feed him nothing but romaine and carrots (although at least she dusted with calcium). Boo will just ignore the food he doesn't like, even if he hasn't eaten that day. It was time for some tough love - I knew he wouldn't starve himself, so after a few days of me offering him good healthy greens and him ignoring them, he finally gave in and ate his fill. Now he's doing ok, although he does turn his nose up at a few of the things my other torts love.

Boo eating. I had to use the zoom on my camera to get this shot.  Yes, Boo still has an overgrown beak.
I am hoping that the new, bigger tort table with plenty of hide spots and room to roam will help little Boo get more comfortable. He was probably dragged around by his ring, so I don't fault him for being so shy. He's also still very young, so with kind treatment and the wisdom that comes with age he will hopefully become more friendly.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your blog! I have a Greek tortoise as well, her... well his name is Olivia and I just love him. He has such an attitude I hope Boo has come out of his shell (ha!)


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