With all the animals we have, I thought I'd start blogging about each of them, sort of as an introduction (...and to show just how insane I am!). I will also try to outline their care a bit, so you have an idea just how busy things are here just caring for the animals. We happened to get a new member of the family on Sunday, so I thought I'd pick him to blog about first. Meet George!
George is a Russian Tortoise. I would estimate him to be around 5 years old, but these little guys can live to be 50-60 years old, so he's just a baby. Despite the fact that we have had him less than a week, he has already settled in and we have become quite attached to him. We bought him for Tucker for his help in loading all that hay. He originally was going to get a Nintendo DS, but decided he wanted a tortoise instead. Is he my kid or what?!
Geroge's favorite activity seems to be exploring the yard and eating everything he comes across. After being kept in a 20-gal tank, he now has a 55-gal opaque container to get lost in. You see, turtles and tortoises should be kept in opaque containers because they don't understand the concept of glass and will continually try to go through it. It's very stressful on them! The storage containers take care of this. He still tries to get out, but instead of just blindly walking in place, he is actively looking up and trying to climb out. He only does this from time to time, and spends most of his time eating and digging. It's cute because when he climbs on the side, it looks like he is begging for someone to take him out.
We have about 6-inches of Bed-A-Beast and playsand mixed together for him to dig in. We also put a bunch of hay at one end, which he loves to nap under. They say tortoises like to munch on hay, but so far he just plays in it. As with our other reptiles, we have a warm side and a cool side, so he has a choice of temperatures. The warm side gets up to 75-80 with a basking rock that gets hotter. The cool side gets down in the 60's at night, but gets up in the 70's during the day.
It's fairly humid in his container now, but that's because the Bed-A-Beast is still evaporating the water out (you have to soak the brick in water to loosen up the coconut fibers). I want to get the humidity down a bit because Russian tortoises are found in arid regions of Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan, Northern and Eastern Iran, North Western China and the Soviet territory Kazakhstan. They are most commonly found in sand and clay deserts with sparse grasses and bushes. Russian tortoises are rarely found in dense grassy areas or cultivated fields. Well, George is now enjoying "dense grassy areas and cultivated fields", so I want to keep his tank more in line with what his hardy ancestors have to deal with. It will be a reality check for him, because he really seems to enjoy our "dense grassy areas and cultivated fields" .For a small tortoise, George can really book it when he wants to. He cruses around the yard, with the kids trotting behind him. If you don't watch him, it would be very easy for him to disappear in the tall grass. He is very good at burrowing through things! Here's a picture I took of him moving:
The blurring really gives you an idea how fast he is going! Well, for a tortoise, anyway. Still no match for a hare, but we all know how that story ends.
Russian tortoises are not allowed to eat any fruit, other than an occasional apple as a treat. It gives them the runs (I know, ewww!) and is not something they would normally eat in the wild. Some of George's favorite greens include dandelion leaves, plantain (plantago major the weed, not bananas), clover, and violet leaves.
We have an old sand box in the yard set up for George to get his daily dose of sun in. He likes it, but definitely prefers to have free run of the yard.
Well, that's about all I can think of to add about George. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments area!
Sites with more information about Russina Tortoises: