Tortoises are animals which begin to winter as soon as it’s a bit cold. It is necessary to be all eyes and indeed to respect this need. Whether they live in the garden or in the terrarium, your tortoises can sleep until 4 months!
A season’s ritual
These reptiles slow down gradually their vital functions as the period of sunshine decreases and as the temperature falls. At 15 ºC, they reduce gradually their activity then hibernate when the temperature falls at 10 ºC. They put themselves in search of a quiet and protected place to hibernate until spring. The hibernation is important for their health:
– It stimulates the sexual activity of males and synchronizes the ovulation of females
– It would increase the life expectancy of animals
– It maintains a normal activity of the thyroid gland
– It avoids the problems presented by the tortoises with a steady metabolic rhythm.
Help them before …
If they live in a terrarium, try to reproduce the phenomena of the nature as the decrease of the sunshine’s period and the decrease of temperature.
It is also recommended to bring them an adequate fruit-based food such as melon or apple at the very beginning of the process decreasing temperature. Then, one week before the hibernation, to respect a diet: your animal will not receive more than water so that he can evacuate all his gastroenteritis – intestinal contents (baths in a water at 28 ºC are very useful to help your tortoise defecating.) do not forget to weigh your tortoise before its sleep!
Look after them during…
Once put to sleep, place them in a closed and ventilated box, in a place as a porch where temperature stays between 5 and 12 °C. Make sure that they are not too much exposed to draught. It is important also that this place is perfectly inaccessible for rodents, so that they cannot attack your sleepy reptile.
And act after the hibernation
Check the loss of weight of your tortoise: it should be situated between 2 and 7 % of its physical weight.
When the good weather is back, try to stimulate the resumption of food, with baths in tepid water which, furthermore, will favor the rehydration of your animal.
At first, feed it with vegetable and with greenery by increasing gradually the quantities. Adipsy or absence of ingestion of water is frequent in the awakening but it should last no more than 10 days.
If you have a doubt, consult the specialist in exotic animals of the veterinary clinic Eurovet. Finally, put your tortoise back in its terrarium.
Dr. F. Savary