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Greek Tortoise, Testudo graeca


Introduction Greek Tortoises are native to Southern Spain, Northern Africa, parts of Europe as well as the Middle East. They are a moderately sized tortoise, attaining sizes between 6-7 inches, and can live over 50 years. They are terrestrial and inhabit areas with dry climates and low humidity. They may spend the hotter parts of the day in a burrow, but otherwise are diurnal.

Acclimation and Quarantine Quarantine or acclimation enclosures do not need to be elaborate, instead they should be sterile and easy to clean. Plastic storage bins are often used for such enclosures as they are easy to clean, come in a variety of sizes, and most provide the security needed for a freshly acquired Sulcata. Paper towels, newspapers, or other easily cleaned materials may be used as the substrate. A hide box should be provided for additional security. A shallow ceramic water dish should be used as the water bowl. Painting trays also work well as water dishes as they are sloped and will allow the tortoise to easily get out. This setup should be used until the tortoise is feeding regularly and appears to be in good health.

Housing We recommend that you house a single adult Greek Tortoise or a pair in cage with a footprint of at least 18" x 48". Babies and small juveniles can be kept in a 20 gallon tank. They should be kept individually as these are naturally solitary animals. In a large enclosure, you may be able to house a group of mature females with one male, but always be ready to separate them. Provide a hide box as well so they can escape the heat and get some solitude.

For substrate, we recommend one that will allow burrowing yet will not raise the humidity to much. A mix of 1:1:1 of Caribbean play sand, coconut husk and cypress mulch works well.

Heating and Lighting There should be a thermal gradient in the cage, so that the tortoise may choose the area of the cage where it is most comfortable. The warmest extreme of the cage should be between 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit, while the cooler side of the cage should be between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is extremely important that the tortoise is provided with this thermal gradient so they can escape the heat; if it is not provided, the tortoise may suffer from heat exhaustion. The basking spot may reach 105 degrees. At night there should be a slight drop in temperature of about ten degrees.

A mercury vapor bulb can be used during the day to provide heat and UV light. If additional heat is needed, a heat pad can be placed on one side of the enclosure, or a regular incandescent light. The use of thermometers and or temp guns are highly recommended to ensure proper heat gradients. If you choose to use a heat light be sure to place it on one end of the tank and not in the center. By placing it on the end you ensure a hot spot and a cool spot.

Tortoises should be provided with UVB exposure from a quality light. Many reptiles, tortoises included, synthesize vitamin D3 when exposed to UVB. Vitamin D3 is necessary for calcium to be metabolized. Animals that are not exposed to UVB can develop Metabolic Bone Disease. If MBD isn't treated in a timely fashion, skeletal deformities, kidney failure, seizures, and eventually death will occur.

Humidity Humidity should range between 25 and 45 percent. However; brief periods above and below this range is acceptable. To maintain humidity, providing a source of water, restricting the air flow, and misting the enclosure are all easy ways to manipulate humidity.

Feeding Greek Tortoises are herbivorous and do not require any type of animal protein in their diet. They should receive a diet of calcium rich greens, fruits, and vegetables. The diet should be made up of 70-80% dark, leafy, calcium rich greens such as: grass, alfalfa hay, collard greens, mustard greens, endive, watercress, and dandelion greens. If they can be obtained, mulberry and hibiscus leaves should be included as often as possible. Alfalfa hay is a good source of fiber, and a practical alternative to grass. Live grass (grazing) or fresh cuttings can be the bulk of your tortoise's diet. 20-30% of the diet should consist of grated vegetables such as: carrots, winter squash, pumpkin, zucchini, thawed frozen mixed vegetables, and spineless prickly pear cactus pads. The last 10-20% may be fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, mango, papaya, kiwi, melon and apple (no seeds).

Avoid iceberg lettuce entirely, it has no nutritional value. Spinach should be either fed in small amounts or avoided entirely because it contains oxalic acid, which binds calcium in the intestinal tract, making it unavailable. Avoid or feed sparingly the following: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, escarole, cauliflower. These vegetables contain iodine binders that can cause thyroid problems. As much as they love bananas, they should only be offered as a treat because they have the incorrect calcium to phosphorus ratio.

Make sure to cut and grate all food into bite size pieces for babies.

Be sure to provide them with the proper calcium supplementation. Your tortoise should receive a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1 in their diet. You may sprinkle calcium over the tortoise's veggies three times a week for juveniles (be sure to feed them daily) and once or twice a week for adults (you can feed them every other day, or offer smaller quantities daily).

Water Greek Tortoises like to soak and should be provided with a clean source of water at all times. A shallow water tray used used for planters is good to use for juveniles and adults as they are sturdy and cannot be easily tipped over. However for smaller specimens a dish of this type can be a hazardous as they cannot climb over the edge to get out. Painting trays work very well for animals of any size. They are sloped upward, allowing even the smallest to climb up and out of the water.