Author Archives: Central Texas Tortoise Rescue
Everybody’s got a wish list. Top on ours is one of these greenhouses from Sunrise Farms. It’s perfect because it comes with a visual barrier and they’ll even do an electrical kit (we had electricity stubbed out into the tortoise yard earlier this year, so we’re ready!). If we were to purchase this today, it would use about 80% of the Rescue’s financial resources, so we’re going to wait a little longer and keep saving up for it. If you want to help, of course we wouldn’t turn you down, but this post is really just intended to show you what we’re up to, and what we’re aiming for. I’m considering doing a fundraising push for this sometime in the next month or so – we want to have it up and ready before winter – but I haven’t fully decided yet.
Other things we always want and need are on our Amazon Wish List, the one I’m most excited about is getting my hands on a few TrackR Bravos to epoxy onto tortoise shells. Other, more mundane things like bleach, first aid supplies, a few books for our tortoise library (because, disclaimer: I’m not a vet), cactus seeds, and the list goes on.
Anyway, that’s what we’re up to, and that’s what we’re saving for, in case you’re interested. If you have any fun ideas for a fundraiser please let me know. I hate asking people for money and if there’s a fun, creative way to do it that doesn’t feel so…asky…I’m all ears! Join our Facebook volunteer group, Tortoise Heroes, if you have an idea.
Now that you’re here, you might be wondering just what it is we do. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries defines a rescue center as “an establishment that takes in animals and cares for them temporarily, with the goal of placing them in permanent ownership or foster care with approved members of the public…”
That’s different than a sanctuary, which provides lifetime care for abused, neglected, injured or abandoned animals. We used to offer sanctuary arrangements for those who wish their animal to stay with us.
Both a rescue and a sanctuary are different than a rehabilitation center, which takes in wildlife temporarily for the purpose of rehabilitating them so that they can be released back into the wild. CTTR does have a rehabilitation permit, which is only required for one species we accept – the Texas tortoise. Due to the potential for exposure to chytrid fungus, any Texas tortoise that enters captivity cannot be released into the wild.
After much deliberation, we have decided to stop offering permanent sanctuary as an option for new animals coming to CTTR (animals already here will stay with us forever). The sanctuary program was implemented after our realization that many families wished for us to keep and care for their shelled pet and our facility began to fill with unadoptable animals. We strive to provide the highest quality of care to all of the animals we take in, but we have determined that the sanctuary program strained our resources, interfered with our ability to proved species-specific and/or single animal enclosures, and threatened our mission to help as many tortoises and box turtles as possible. Please understand, we are not closing down the Rescue, we will still take in animals and adopt them out, and animals that are already in our Sanctuary Program will continue to live here until the end of their days. The Sanctuary Program was simply an alternative we offered to families who didn’t want their animals adopted out.
Contributing to this decision was the recent heartbreaking loss of our favorite little golden Greek tortoise, Rocket. Rocket came to us two years ago with big dreams, a big heart, a bold spirit, and a fearless approach to life. He was charismatic and amusing and sweet, and we miss him every day. We don’t know what caused Rocket’s demise: he was okay, and then suddenly he wasn’t. Rocket was a sanctuary animal. The hardest thing I have had to do since beginning this journey was to call Rocket’s family and tell them the news. So while part of the decision to stop offering sanctuary is really altruistic and in the best interest of the animals, part of it is motivated by self-preservation. I don’t have another one of those phone calls in me.
Thank you all for your support and understanding as our organization continues to evolve and become the best that it can be. We could never do what we do without you, so thank you for enabling us (me, really: Mr. Tortoise Rescue is just along for the ride!) to live our (my) dreams. Keep being amazing!
Who hasn’t asked themselves that question at least once a month since entering adulthood?
We ask for your support at certain times of the year, and we thought that you might like to know just what happens to the money that you so generously share with us. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that in 2016 alone we have spent over $2,000 on veterinary care, but that’s just a small piece of what we have going on.
This year we were awarded a grant that paid almost the full cost of building a new fence around a large chunk of pasture for big sulcatas. In fact, it’s big enough that we can (and do) even keep smaller enclosures inside of it. That’s the big chunk you’ll notice under “facility upgrades.” Other “upgrades” that aren’t captured there are captured under the supplies category. This includes thinks like motion-detecting sprinklers to help keep raccoons away, edible plants for our enclosures, hay, food, a sprinkler/drip system so that there is always fresh water, little ponds, pond liners, pond plants, and mosquitofish, a shelving unit for storing some of the larger/dirtier supplies, storage bins used as winter housing, extension cords, first aid/medical supplies, and other odds and ends that keep the place running smoothly and the needs of the animals met.
I read somewhere that a non-profit’s overhead (in our case this would be reimbursables plus fundraising costs) should be less than 35%. We are comfortably under that amount. The reimbursables category captures things like reimbursing volunteers for gas when they give their whole day to drive from Dallas to Corpus and then up to San Marcos to bring an animal to us, or the cost of having someone come do security checks and feeding/watering when we travel for longer than a day or two. Fundraising costs…well, the saying “you have to spend money to make money” is true. We’ve had costs for getting t-shirts printed, securing raffle items above and beyond those that were kindly donated, buying food for our fundraising events, and doing some advertising through Facebook to get more attention for a particular event or fundraiser. I must say, it seems to have worked!
You shouldn’t have to wonder what your donation does. And now, you don’t.
I’m pasting this from another group because the gentleman posting it makes a lot of good points that beginners should be aware of, and I didn’t see a need to mince his words.
Rodney Earl Pettway
May 26 at 11:44pm
Over the years many of us, myself included, have made many of these mistakes, and we have certainly seen them made many times by others. With springtime upon us and many new tortoises hatching into the world I thought it might be helpful to point out some commonly seen errors. Please note: this information is intended solely to be helpful and NOT to ridicule, humiliate, poke fun at, or otherwise hurt anyone’s feelings. I openly admit to making some of these mistakes myself in the past, so let the first finger be pointed at me…
1. Buying a tortoise from the WRONG source. We all know which sources are good and which sources are bad. Some of the new people just getting into reptiles or tortoises don’t know yet. If you are new to the tortoise world, ask around a bit, but do it privately so people can speak more freely. This is what the “Private Message” feature is for.
2. Shopping at, and taking advice from pet stores. There are definitely exceptions to this, but the majority of pet stores don’t know tortoises at all, and give terrible advice. Also, most of the products they sell for tortoises and other reptiles are not just useless and over priced, but sometimes dangerous. Most of my tortoise products come from hardware stores and Walmart or Target type stores.
3. There are lots of good substrates to use. Sand of any kind, rabbit pellets, dry compressed grass pellets, and hay are NOT one of them. If someone has told you to use one of these, I would seriously question anything else they told you too. These substrates are too dry, and in the case of using all sand, it is potentially dangerous.
4. Water bowls. The pet store ones are not suitable. The sides are too steep and they are too tall. You need a shallow one so that if the tortoise ever manages to flip and land in the water, they don’t drown. I like to use terra cotta plant saucers because they are wide, low sided, shallow, offer good traction to tortoise feet and are easy to clean. There are other suitable ones too.
5. Not having a water bowl for a baby is a mistake too. They do NOT get enough water from the food they eat and even though some of them do come from desert type areas they have ways of conserving hydration in the wild that they do not have in captivity. Babies don’t walk around in the hot sun in the middle of the day in the desert. Please allow your baby to get a drink when it wants one.
6. Temperatures. Temperatures are everything to a reptile. Not properly measuring, knowing, checking, adjusting and maintaining the proper temps is a huge mistake. Every tortoise owner ought to have an infrared temp gun and a remote probed thermometer. There are four temps to know and watch. Warm side, cool side, basking spot, and night. You need to know all four of these. This should make it obvious why a single stick on thermometer alone is NOT adequate. One of the biggest mistakes I see is letting a tropical tortoise get too cool, especially at night. They need it dark at night, but also warm. I like ceramic heating elements for this, but colored incandescent bulbs will work too. Please MONITOR your temps. It can literally mean the difference between a healthy, thriving tortoise, and a sick or dead one.
7. Hatchlings of all species should be soaked every day for the first few months. It hurts nothing, and might save their life. This does not mean setting them in their shallow water dish and walking away. They need to be soaked in a tall sided tub with warm shallow water. Water temp should be 85-95 and anywhere from 15-30 minutes is fine. I will soak brand new hatchlings in the morning and then a second time after sunning on a hot day. In most cases, once a day is enough.
8. All tortoises need places to hide and feel secure. Further, I don’t know of a species that won’t benefit from having a real humid hide. It is a mistake to have an open, barren enclosure with nowhere for them to tuck into and hide. If you see them housed in this way in a pet store, it should be a good indicator of where that store stands on tortoise knowledge and their level of proper care. If they can’t drop a simple hide into the enclosure, what else are they NOT doing?
9. This next one is really more of an opinion, but it is shared by many others. In most cases it is a mistake to keep and raise tortoises in pairs. I have seen this cause a lot of problems. Keeping tortoises together will almost certainly lead to dead, sick or injured tortoises at least some percentage of the time. Tortoises do not need a “buddy”. They are solitary animals, not highly social pack animals. Their own species is usually seen as competitors, mates or combatants. They can often get along in the right groups, but they are also just fine all alone. Just because one person has gotten away with this with their own tortoises and it seems like nothing is wrong, does not mean its good advice to be spreading around.
This does vary among the various species. Redfoot and leopard tortoises often get along just fine for example, while sulcatas and russians often don’t.
IF you choose to keep more than one tortoise in an enclosure, you NEED to have an immediate plan and all the equipment and supplies to separate and house them individually, in case there is a compatibility problem. This should be considered part of the purchase price when you buy that second tortoise. If you don’t have the money or the room for additional enclosures, then you don’t have the money or the room for additional tortoises.
I’m not here to debate it, I’m here to share what I and other experienced keepers believe to be a mistake.
To recap: Yes, I know it is not the end of the world and an instant death sentence to keep two tortoises together. But it IS a bad idea. At best it is a compromise, and a tenuous one at that. Many people do it and get away with it, but it is often just a question of time until the luck runs out. We know of lots of example’s where time ran out and fights broke out. As a tortoise owner, I want to give them the best possible chance at success and house them the best way possible. To me, this means not keeping them in pairs.
10. Again with an opinion… I have personally witnessed the death of many tortoises due to mixing species. I recommend against it, and feel that it is a mistake. I’m not here to debate it, I’m here to share what I believe to be a mistake.
11. Diet. Store bought foods are okay, but there is so much more to offer that is better for our tortoises. Many of the alternatives are also free or much cheaper too. Look into weeds like filaree, mallow, hawksbit, dandelion, sow thistle, plantain, clover, wild mustard and garlic, etc… Mulberry leaves. Rose and hibiscus leaves and flowers. Grape leaves. Spineless opuntia cactus pads and its fruit (cactus pear) and Organ pipe cactus. Grasses and hay for some species. Mazuri tortoise chow. ZooMed tortoise chows. Marion red stick tortoise chow. Not to mention the endless supply of things you can grow yourself. The leaves and flowers from any of the squash family plants are great. Sunflower leaves. Pansies, gazanias, nasturtiums, rose of Sharon, etc…the list is endless.
12. Over supplementation. Our tortoises need supplements. Caclcium especially. But care should be taken not to over do it. They need a little bit two or three times a week. They don’t need spoonfuls every day. Too much calcium can interfere with the absorption of other minerals and trace elements and can cause all sorts of problems. So give them some, but take it easy.
13. Raise your hand if you have ever lost a turtle tortoise or other reptile by taking it outside for some fresh air, sunshine and exercise… A LOT of hands just wet up. Mine did. It is a mistake to take your tortoise outside into your yard, a park, or an apartment courtyard without a proper, safe enclosure. Something bad will eventually happen. Maybe not the first time, maybe not the first month, but eventually it will. Apartment complexes and parks use pesticides and weed killers, even sometimes when they say they don’t. Not worth the risk. Even in your own yard, it is human nature to become complacent. It takes seconds of innattention for a small tortoise to completely disappear. I have had it happen personally. I have heard SOOOOOO many people say, “he was sitting right here, and I just turned a round for a second to ______, and he was just gone!” I’m begging you, don’t be this person. It feels absolutely awful. Kiddie pools are like $10 from Walmart.
14. Enclosure size. The catch phrase says it all. “The bigger, the better.” So many times people want to know the minimum size enclosure for their adult russian or young sulcata… We should be asking what is the MAXIMUM. Tortoises need LOTS of room to roam and explore. Walking actually helps their digestion, similar to a horse. By the time we finish putting all the “furniture” in a typical indoor enclosure, there is hardly any room left. There is no species that I can think of belongs in a 10 or 20 gallon, even as a tiny hatchling. Its just too small. In my opinion a 40 gallon aquarium should be the minimum size even for a tiny Testudo sp. hatchling. There is no reason that you can’t put a 9 gram hatchling into a 100 gallon size enclosure for its first set up, or larger. Juveniles and anything larger ought to be spending the majority of their time OUTSIDE, weather permitting of course. In the wild, some of these tortoises would walk MILES in a day. No one has ever finished building an enclosure and thought to themselves, “Hmmm… should have made it smaller…” By contrast, every time I finish a build, indoors or out, I wish I had made it bigger. Give your tortoise as much room as you can, just make it safe.
This is intended to help new people wade through some of the conflicting and often overlooked info out there.
In January a strange thing happened. We were contacted by photographers from The Vorhees who needed to take some pictures of a tortoise for an article about human longevity in Popular Science magazine. They needed a tortoise that was mid-sized (but small enough for me to carry!) and had lots of light colors on the shell. Astrophe fit the bill perfectly, so I allowed them to photograph him. He posed and performed like a champ, and The Vorhees made a donation to the rescue in exchange for his talent. The best part? They gave me copies of the pictures 🙂
Download and read our 2015 year in review Newsletter here: CTTR_Newsletter_2015
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,400 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
If you are interested in adopting a 3-toed or an ornate box turtle, please fill out an adoption application and submit via e-mail, with photos of your enclosure. Box turtles are escape artists, so if you build something with a wall you will need to either use a hinged wire mesh cover or create an overhang so they cannot climb out. Box turtles, like all turtles and tortoises, should be kept outdoors where they can get plenty of access to sunlight, but also with enough shelters that they can get out of the sun whenever they want. They require a constant supply of water, but they are not aquatic species, so their enclosure will need to be mostly land with a little pond for soaking in, which they will do often. Do your homework, you’ll be required to illustrate through your answers to the adoption application that you know how to care for these before we can adopt to you. There is a suggested donation of $75 for each box turtle that you adopt, but there are lots to choose from!