My fascinating day at TortArk, the Tortoise Rescue Centre in Titchfield
By AmyLocksHeath | Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 13:10
I visited TortArk, the headquarters for the Hampshire Tortoise Society (HTS) in Titchfield on their open day on Saturday 8th September 2012. Knowing nothing about owning a tortoise, I found the day highly educational, and was amazed by what I learnt.
Tucker the tortoise wandering around at the Open Day
Molly is a 10 year old Spur Thigh Tortoise living at TortArk. She is very flat and deformed as she lived in a vivarium for the first 5 years of her life and didn’t go outside. Her shell grew too far forward underneath her head and she is unable to reach out to feed herself. She must be handfed for over an hour every day. Her life expectancy is shorter due to her internal organs being squashed.
Did you know...?
• Tortoises need to live in a temperature of between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius for active living
• If the temperature of their environment falls below 20 degrees Celsius, the tortoise begins to slow down and feeding stops. As the temperature nears 10 degrees Celsius, chemical changes for hibernation occur
• Safe hibernation is between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius
• At 0 degrees Celsius, soft tissue begins to freeze, resulting in blindness, serious muscle and intestine damage and eventually death as temperatures fall.
My trip to TortArk taught me that owning a tortoise is not simple, as they need to be constantly kept at the correct temperature, with the right amount of sunlight and fed the correct food, otherwise they may be at risk from a number or illnesses or deformities. I also learnt that pet shops are notorious for selling items to new tortoise owners that can in fact be harmful to the tortoise in the hope that you will part with more money. So beware!
Fletcher is a Spur Thigh Tortoise living at TortArk. He has a metabolic bone disorder and as a result has not developed a nice domed shell. When he was very young he was not given enough calcium and not allowed out in the garden to get some sun. When he was brought to TortArk he couldn’t walk as the bones in his legs were soft and couldn’t take his weight. He also couldn’t eat properly as his jaws were soft. Within two weeks of staying at TortArk, he was walking and eating well.
TortArk is the headquarters of the Hampshire Tortoise Society (HTS). The aims of the society are:
• to promote the welfare of tortoises in captivity
• to provide advice and literature on the care of tortoises
• care for sick and injured tortoises
• liaise with HM Customs to care for smuggled tortoises
• provide homes at our sanctuaries for special needs tortoises
• find new homes for tortoises in approved, caring surroundings
• hold fundraising events
Services provided by HTS include:
• educational meetings and courses
• telephone and email helpline
• surgeries at TortArk
• free DVD/video tortoise care library
HTS hold drop-in centres for tortoise owners and an annual fundraising open day. For more information, please visit the Hampshire Tortoise Society’s website. The open day this year featured stalls, a tombola, raffle, games for children, many tortoises on show, refreshments and lots of advice and support for local tortoise owners. It was well worth the visit to TortArk!