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How do you wake a tortoise from hibernation ? Mulbarton-based group to offer top tortoise tips at event

How do you wake a tortoise from hibernation ? Mulbarton-based group to offer top tortoise tips at event

Tortoises – did you know?

• To tell a tortoise and a turtle apart, look at their feet – water turtles have flippers and webbed feet with long claws, while tortoises have stubby feet.

• A group of tortoises is called a creep.

• They are hidden inside its shell, but all tortoises have ribs, a collar bone and a spine.

• Their shells are made up of 60 different bones connected to each other, with the top side called a carapace and the bottom a plastron – which are connected by a bridge.

• Tortoises do not normally hibernate for more than three months in the wild.

• The perfect temperature for hibernating is between three to seven degrees Celcius.

• The average age a tortoise lives to ranges from 90 to 150 years.

But for hundreds of tortoise owners it is a problem which can mean the difference between life and death for their shelled friends.

So, as temperatures start to inch up and the days grow longer, how do you, safely, wake a tortoise from hibernation?

The Norfolk Tortoise Club, based near Mulbarton, is hoping shed some light and advise owners on the best methods at an event in Hethersett this week.

Speaking at the meeting will be chair person Eleanor Tirtasana, who joined the club 10 years ago and has been a tortoise enthusiast since she was given one as a child.

Eleanor Tirtsana with 60-year-old Humphrey after his warm bath as he awakes after hibernation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYEleanor Tirtsana with 60-year-old Humphrey after his warm bath as he awakes after hibernation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The 31-year-old said that caring for the reptiles can be “a minefield”.

“We have found that some owners are hibernating their tortoises for much longer than the three months they need – but some are doing it for the length of European winters rather than north African ones,” she said. “There are more than 200 types of tortoise and we are very fortunate to be able to buy a wide variety of them, but there are some that don’t hibernate at all, and we have seen owners do so anyway.”

Miss Tirtasana, a teacher at City College Norwich, said that although hibernating tortoises correctly is an easy art, owners must ensure they have the right information.

“It can be very dangerous,” she said. “If you keep them too warm or too cold, sometimes they don’t make it through the period. It’s about getting to know your pet and finding out much as possible.”

Eleanor Tirtsana places 60-year-old Humphrey under a heat lamp with some good food as he awakes after hibernation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYEleanor Tirtsana places 60-year-old Humphrey under a heat lamp with some good food as he awakes after hibernation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Among the advice given at this week’s event will be making sure they have a balanced diet and warning signs indicating something is not right – such as if the tortoise is not feeding after it is woken up.

But the group will also be encouraging more people to get involved whether they have a tortoise or not – and say that now is the perfect time to welcome one in to your home.

Miss Tirtasana, who travels the world to speak about the slow-moving creatures, said: “We have at least 15 here that are ready to be rehomed – if people have enclosures and the right set up they can come and rehome one.”

Entrance to the event, which starts at 7pm, at Hethersett Village Hall, on Back Lane, costs £1 per person, with children free. All funds raised will be given to the Norfolk Tortoise Club.