Don’t stick your head in the ground when rescuing a tortoise
KEEPING tortoises without a permit is not only illegal, but could be detrimental the animal’s well-being.
You need to have a permit from nature conservation authorities to keep a tortoise in SA.
“Aside from the legal implications, there are a number of factors to be taken into account when considering the future of the tortoise you rescued from the side of the road. Wild animals belong in the wild and choose freedom,” read a statement from the SPCA.
These five freedoms are essential to the animal’s welfare according to the SPCA:
- The ability to express normal behaviour.
- Freedom from hunger and thirst, which includes a nutritional and correct diet.
- Freedom from discomfort, which can’t be provided in captivity.
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
- Freedom from fear and distress.
If you are unable to provide for all of these freedoms, why not take it to the SPCA so a proper home can be found for it?
“Wild animals surrendered to SPCAs are provided with temporary shelter and when a wild animal is in a fit, healthy state it is sent to an assessed and accredited rehabilitation centre. These facilities have experienced staff and are able to release these animals in such a manner as to provide them with the best chance of living a life in the wild.
Put yourself in the shoes (or claws) of the tortoise. What would you choose? A life in captivity with an unbalanced diet and the risk that your owner will not have sufficient knowledge to understand when medical attention is required? Or would you choose freedom and be able to forage for your own natural food and live a happy wild life?”
The SPCA explained that in the wild, tortoises roam in areas that provide appropriate vegetation and protection from the harsh elements. “Captive tortoises require large enclosures that provide shelter, sun, shade and soil and must be planted with appropriate vegetation.”
There are various specific requirements for food, water, shelter and safety which must be strictly adhered to for captive tortoises to ensure their survival.
“It is important to remember that tortoise distribution is not a hit and miss affair. It has taken place over hundreds of thousands of years. Different species have evolved and adapted to different areas, and these areas supply them with the essentials for survival such as food, shelter and the chance of finding a mate.
Tortoise distribution is very often linked to instinctive food preferences such as succulents and particular wild flowers. A tortoise may starve to death if released in an area in which the known food plants do not occur. Certain species of tortoises have adapted to survive in particular climatic regions. By releasing them into an area with harsh winter or summer conditions, with which it is not familiar, is as good as signing its death warrant.”