Enjoying one of their favourite treats, strawberries
I love tortoises and find them such fascinating prehistoric-looking creatures. Anyone who thinks they're boring 'go-slow' sleepy animals are mistaken! Tortoises are totally independent from the moment they hatch from their egg and from day one they are funny little characters. They're inquisitive, not quite as scared as they make out and are notorious escape artists.
A quick little fact-file for you on my two:
Species: Testudo Hermanni Boetgeri (Hermanns Tortoise, the most popular and common pet tortoise species in the UK)
Gender: 90% sure Squirt is a female, though we do still call her 'him' most of the time!
Age: 6 years old
Fave Pastime: climbing, eating whatever she can find in the garden
Fave Food: Pak Choi, Dandelion leaves
Species: Testudo Hermanni Boetgeri
Gender: Female (we think!)
Age: 4 years old
Fave Pastime: digging holes in lawns while hunting for clover
Fave Food: Clover, strawberries
When hatched, Hermanns Tortoises are the size of a 50 pence piece!
After much research I decided to get a tortoise and chose Hermanns Tortoises as I thought their shells were beautiful colours and they had quirky personalities. I was lucky to find a lovely breeder locally; she had two separate Hermanns breeding pairs, Totty & Too and Twiggy & Tommy. I got Squirt when she was 10 months old and her parents are Totty & Too. Squirt was a mere 7.5cm in length when I brought him home and he's grown well since I've had him. Tortoises are prone to pyramiding (where their shells grow unevenly and look very bumpy) if they don't have the right diet and other factors. I think I've done a good job with my two and they both seem to be very healthy tortoises.
Squirt aged 10 months
Squirt aged 2 years
Tortoises are more than happy alone, but after keeping in touch with the breeder and hearing that Twiggy had laid eggs, I was keen to get a friend for Squirt. Not only that but Lola is totally unrelated to Squirt so if it turned out I had one of each sex then I could breed them. It looks like I've got two females but I'm thinking of getting an adult male once my two reach breeding size so I can breed them. We actually watched Lola hatching from the egg which was fascinating. We brought her home at two weeks and I was petrified that Squirt would squash her as she was so tiny but they were totally inseparable and Squirt was so careful with Lola. Quite often I'd lose Lola as she'd bury herself in the soil, but I always knew where she was as Squirt was usually asleep in the same place but would only manage to half-bury herself. They follow each other everywhere now, eat together, and sleep side by side.
Lola was a Birthday present from Jack, here she is at two weeks old
Meeting her new best friend, Squirt
Sharing a slice of tasty apple - I'm busy watching I don't lose a finger!
Squirt has successfully managed to hibernate twice, but we've had to over-winter her the past two winters because it just wasn't possible to hibernate her while we lived in our rented flat. They're now back outside much more now that we have our own house and garden and we're currently in the process of building them a permanent outdoor run so they can live out year-round and hibernate as normal each winter (though they'll be transferred to boxes and hibernated in the shed where rodents can't get to them during hibernation). This year will be Lola's first hibernation and hopefully she'll be successful. Let's not talk about winter just yet though, brrr!
Squirt and Lola have been brilliant photographic subjects; I've managed to get a few good action shots of them (best before the sunshine has warmed them up because then they're off!). I can't tell if they like being the subjects of my photos or not but I don't really give them a lot of choice! They're pleased that Barry now has to do his fair share of modelling duties too so they can spend more time devouring weeds in the garden or escaping when I'm not watching them!