TO CARE FOR AUSTRALIAN FRESHWATER TORTOISES
Although to humans tortoises appear to be stupid on some ways,
this is because we do not always understand their behaviour,
and because we expect them to behave as we would ourselves behave
in a given situation.
This 'anthropomorphism' is the cause of our underestimation
of the intelligence levels of many other animals. Their code
is different from ours - they would probably consider humans
to be quite stupid! Animals sense many things that we cannot
: their bodies are finely tuned to an enormous range of smells,
tastes, vibrations, wavelengths and even electromagnetic fields.
Their reasoning, obviously, is also different from ours.
We have yet to devise a suitable intelligence test for tortoises.
Richard Haas [reference 4] says that tortoises "... can
learn to discriminate between white and black, between vertical
and horizontal lines, between lines of varying width and between
various colours. Some have the rudiments of a kind of social
organisation shown by the 'pecking order' established in a captive
group of tortoises [Tortoises]
of the same species become recognisable as individuals to their
owners because of the 'personality' of each. Possession
of a personality indicates some degree of intelligence."
Furthermore, tortoises "... possess a finely-tuned ability
to detect vibrations coming to them through the water or ground
and an excellent sense of touch. The sense of taste
and smell are believed to be well developed."
Tortoises of the Chelidae have exceptionally keen sight out
of water, and very good hearing. In fact, their five senses
all either match, or are superior to, our own.
They can be trained, with patience and consistency, to eat out
of your hand and to come when you call or whistle.
As mentioned before, they are social animals, and prefer the
company of other tortoises. By themselves they get lonely. However
as they grow older watch for aggressive ones that may intimidate
others by biting and pushing.
These should be separated from the rest until they learn to
Tortoises instinctively love to hide, wedging themselves amongst
rocks for protection if they are frightened, or half-burying
themselves in gravel. They are very shy creatures.
Some adult tortoises love to be stroked gently on the underside
of their necks.
Here is an interesting anecdote gathered from a past Curator
of Reptiles at the Melbourne Zoo, Mr Roy Dunn.
There was a pool containing tortoises, around which crowds of
visitors would gather daily. The tortoises took no notice of
their noisy audience. However when Mr Dunn would appear amongst
the crowd, the tortoises recognised his face as the man who
provided the food, and they would swim furiously straight towards
him. He did not have to make a sound - they knew
him by sight. Slow-witted animals?
THE AGE OF TORTOISES
To tell how old a tortoise is you must look at the shields of
the carapace. A new perimeter is added to each shield each year
as the tortoise grows. This results in an annual 'growth ring'.
Count the centre of the shield as year one. Each additional
ring indicates a year of life. This method of age determination
is not always reliable as growth rings can wear away. Tortoises
periodically shed the outer covering of their shields as they
grow; this also helps obliterate growth signs. As mentioned
earlier, tortoises can live for up to 200 years.
PAGE 1 PAGE 2 PAGE
Indoor Living Quarters: PAGE
4 PAGE 5 PAGE
6 PAGE 7 PAGE
8 PAGE 9
Outdoor Living Quarters: PAGE
Feeding: PAGE 11
Hibernation: PAGE 12
Ailments: PAGE 13
Behaviour and Intelligence: PAGE
How Old is the Tortoise? PAGE
Dangers: PAGE 15
Reproduction and Sexual Differences PAGE
References: PAGE 16