Sunday, July 5, 2015

The importance of DEEP shade

Ok, folks, we need to talk about SHADE.

You have probably (hopefully) heard tortoise keepers talking about the fact that tortoises need "DEEP SHADE" to retreat into on a hot Summer day (really any day that has air temps above 80 degrees).

What do we mean by "deep shade?" - this is NOT slapping a board across the tortoise enclosure, nor does a little house do the trick. To create DEEP shade, you have to use the *AND* principal. So, for example, deep shade would be under a tree, AND inside a burrow. Or under an umbrella (or shade cloth) AND under a dense bush. Under a dense bush AND inside a deep burrow. Only there can a significantly cooler environment be achieved that our tortoises need to be comfortable on a hot day.

Not convinced? If you have a temp gun, I would love it if you would go outside, and measure the ground temperature in a nice shady spot, and then in the sun. There can be a temperature difference of 60 degrees! (e.g. the deep shade under our tree is a nice balmy 80 degrees... the dappled shade under a bush is 90, and the flat rocks in the tortoise enclosure measured 140 degrees F before I hosed them down! In comparison, in the burrow that is behind the dense bush, covered in 10 inches of soil, and has been dug out pretty deep by the tortoises, it is 65-70 degrees. Guess where the tortoises are? Except for the 2 crazy ones who are out first thing in the morning, and don't seem to mind the sun (they are also the lightest colored ones), they are all in the burrows right now.

While we are talking about shade and sun - PLEASE do NOT soak your tortoise in the sunshine when it is warm outside - at least not without supervision! Just this year, I have heard of 2 tortoises that died during their soaks, simply because the owner placed the soaking dish in the sun, and then walked away for 30 minutes. A tortoise in a soaking bin has no place to go. If it is overheating, it can't hide, and sitting in 1 inch of cool water certainly won't protect the top of its shell.

Please be sure to provide DEEP shade for your tortoise when it is outside - that's TWO kinds of shade nested inside each other, as explained above. If your tortoise constantly hides during outdoor time, chances are that you might not be providing enough shade in the enclosure.