This guide is aimed at people that are new to the hobby. I highly recommend reading this before purchasing your new shelled friend. Hopefully this will help you to realise some of the commitments that are required and help to steer you in the right direction. As well as helping you to avoid the most common mistakes, mishaps and problems that new tortoise owners face.
Firstly I would like to talk about sourcing your new pet. This will explain the reasons behind buying a new tortoise from certain sources and to keep away from other sources. I will include a list of links at the end of this article to put you in the right direction of breeders.
The best place by far to purchase a tortoise is from breeders. They are UK captive bred tortoises, generally receive great care from their owners along with good husbandry and dietary conditions as well. Breeders are generally people that are very into the hobby of tortoises and most have a large collection. They breed tortoises as a course of nature and also to help them with the costs of looking after their own.
This is by far the best place to buy a tortoise from. They are usually a great source for a wealth of information and will be to provide you with any help you may need once you have purchased from them. Tortoises from breeders usually come in good health are worm and protozoa free as well as herpes free (HSV- is a killer of tortoises and will one day kill an infected tortoise).
It is also probably the most ethical way to obtain a tortoise as a pet and helps to conserve and preserve the world population of tortoises.
Dealers are not to be confused with breeders. However many may try to pass themselves off as breeders. They generally have no regard for the correct care or welfare of the tortoises and are not usually ethically sourced i.e. UK captive bred.
Dealers generally obtain tortoises from the same places as pet shops and the vast majority are wild caught. As you can see this is not ethical and certainly helps to diminish the wild population.
Pet shops generally source their animals from farms out in Slovenia and other parts of Europe. However they may not do this directly. As you know this does affect the wild population and their numbers which due to many differing circumstances are already strained in some of their natural habitats.
Going back to when tortoises where first imported into the UK. The animals were taken from the wild, put into creates stacked on top of each other, then shipped for a couple of weeks over to here. Now many of the tortoises died, were severely dehydrated, starving and feeding off of the dead as well as infested with worms and protozoa.
You might think that this has all stopped now, but in fact in some cases DEFRA actually licenses it. Laws were introduced to stop tortoises from being imported in such ways as well as to stop wild caught tortoises being sent to the UK. With DEFRA’s new laws a certificate called an Article 10 must be supplied with certain species of tortoises. However the tortoises’ origin isn’t actually checked, so wild caught ones still manage to be bought into the UK, but are “licensed”. The conditions in which they are shipped in are not usually any different to those in the 60’s & 70’s.
So please when you go to buy a tortoise, try and remember a few key points:-
- Find a breeder not a dealer
- Enquire about Article 10s
- Ask about after care & what if you have a problem
- Also ask what vet they use or if they can recommend a good one near you
Note:- It is important that you have a vet that specialises in reptiles. A normal vet usually struggles to identify and treat problems in tortoises.
Below are some search terms that will point you to breeder’s lists and also where you can obtain more information on Article 10 certificates.