Spring time is here – time for those tortoises to come out of hibernation!
Around this time of year we start thinking about our scaly friends waking up. Remember that the smaller ones should not be hibernated for more than 8-10 weeks and the larger species, no more than 16 weeks.
Tortoises only remain in hibernation when the temperature is within a certain range. If this is above 10 degrees Celsius, the hibernation process comes to an end. If we have been monitoring the weight of our tortoise, more than 1% total body weight loss in a month is too much and the tortoise should be woken up. This is also the case if you notice that your tortoise has urinated or you hear some rustling movement – these are all signs that your tortoise needs to be placed in a warm bright room.
The best way to wake your tortoise up is to place them in a warm room (approx. 25 degrees Celsius) and leave them in a box for an hour to allow them to adjust. Afterwards, remove them from the box and expose them to bright light and some UV/ basking lamps. Spring time in the UK is completely different to the Mediterranean and we need to replicate this as much as possible for our reptile friends.
Just keeping them indoors without any heat or light may be insufficient unless a basking lamp is also provided. We want to encourage them to eat and drink as soon as possible so they do not dip into their precious fat and energy reserves. Never place your tortoise back into hibernation, this can be fatal.
To encourage them to drink, we would recommend giving them a water bath in warm water, just below head level. Keep them in the bath for 20-30 minutes and try and do this once or twice daily. Splashing water over their head and shell can encourage them to drink as well.
If they do not drink, toxins may build up in their kidneys and bladder. If a tortoise does not eat, drink or urinate within 1 week from emerging from hibernation, either here is a husbandry problem or a health problem and this needs to be rectified immediately.
If you have any queries or concerns, why not book your tortoise in for a post hibernation check with Heilin or give her a ring at the practice. As always prompt intervention if you are worried is always the best , for further information we'd also recommend having a look at the tortoise trust website.