Hygiene strengthens the immune system of Astrochelys radiata

As ground-dwelling reptiles, tortoises in the wild simply deposit their excrement haphazardly in open areas. Liquids dry out quickly in the sun and gut bacteria are killed by the intense UV radiation. Insects, worms, and microorganisms in the soil completely decompose and utilize the droppings. Even with a high population density in an area, it is quite unlikely that tortoises will walk over the same contaminated sites several times or become overly contaminated with the droppings of conspecifics.

In captivity, however, we have a different hygiene situation due to limited space. Especially in indoor enclosures, tortoises repeatedly walk through areas contaminated with feces and urine and thus distribute feces over the entire enclosure area. In a relatively short time, an invisible carpet of intestinal bacteria and other microorganisms is formed. Substrate layers have a certain absorption capacity, but if this is saturated, harmful bacteria can also multiply unfavorably in them. In case of density stress and lack of hygiene, this bacterial load is potentiated and contaminates the tortoises again and again with their own, but also with the bacteria of conspecifics. This excessive and repeditive chain of contamination weakens the immune system of Astrochelys radiata and can lead to dangerous external and internal infections.

Always pay attention to cleanliness and hygiene when keeping tortoises, both indoors and outdoors! Radiated tortoises from unhygienic conditions often have a weakened immune system and suffer from unnoticed, chronic inflammatory foci in the gastrointestinal tract. Creeping, diffuse infections can spread to other organs via the digestive tract and lead to sudden, multiple organ failure. In young animals, an increased bacterial load has a particularly negative effect on metabolic balance and growth.

Observe the following hygiene instructions in turtle keeping:

  • Clean the indoor and outdoor enclosure daily.

  • Remove feces and urine from the soil substrate over a large area with a shovel.

  • Regularly replace contaminated soil substrate with fresh. Substrates that dry out and begin to dust should also be replaced. Algrite/shellgrite sand can be washed and dried in the sun. If necessary, coarse-grained sand can also be heated in the oven on an old baking tray at 180°C for 15 minutes and largely sterilized.

  • When planning and designing indoor facilities for larger groups of Radiated Tortoises, it is recommended to include a water connection directly in the indoor area and a drain on the floor, which allow easy and hygienic cleaning of the entire floor area with a water hose. Non-slip floor tiles can be cleaned well and thoroughly with water and a hand brush on a regular basis.

  • Twice a year, wash the entire indoor system including furnishings (roots, stones, etc.) with hot water and then disinfect all surfaces with disinfectant alcohol (80%) or another suitable disinfectant.

  • Regularly clean and disinfect cleaning tools such as shovels and rakes.

  • Regularly clean the food and water bowls with a brush and hot water. Afterwards, the bowls can be dried in the sun.

  • Avoid density stress in your plant. Many animals in too tight a space automatically cause an increased bacterial load.

  • From time to time, carefully clean feces from the tortoises' abdominal shell, anal shields, cloacal region, and hind legs using a very soft brush and lukewarm water. A 15 minute bath in lukewarm water will help soften dried fecal residue so that it can be better removed from the skin and shell.

  • Ensure adequate ventilation in the indoor enclosure. Stagnant moisture and heat promote mold growth and the proliferation of bacteria and spores, which can also be absorbed through the respiratory tract and lead to fatal infections.

  • Always ensure sufficient access to natural sunlight when keeping ray turtles. The UV radiation of the sun reliably kills most harmful microorganisms and germs in a short time.

  • The immune system of Astrochelys radiata has a hypersensitivity to certain alien microorganisms. Therefore, strictly avoid contact and socialization with other species!

  • Astrochelys radiata occasionally eats carrion and feces of other animals to absorb calcium and minerals. However, this should be avoided at all costs for contamination reasons with pathogens and parasites.

FAQ on the subject of hygiene

FAQ "...I am a big tortoise fan and have been keeping the following species for years: Geochelone carbonaria, Geochelone sulcata, Geochelone elegans, Geochelone paradalis, Indotestud elongata, Chersina angulata, Testudo hermanni boettgeri and Testudo marginata.... I really want to get some Radiated Tortoises now. Do they have any for sale?"2022-07-04T15:06:01+02:00

The enumeration of kept tortoise species is for us primarily no proof of a species-appropriate husbandry situation. On the contrary, often behind a large menagerie of tortoises always narrow space conditions, unhygienic enclosures and interspecies associations can be suspected. A tortoise husbandry is impressive when the quality of the husbandry situation for the individual species is more important than the quantity of animals kept. We always find keeping concepts that include generous, natural and species-appropriate space conditions with a professional and clean infrastructure for a few tortoises extremely inspiring and impressive!

FAQ "...I bought two baby ray turtles a few weeks ago. Initially, they walked around curiously in the terrarium and went to the food well. Now they just lie in a corner and hardly move. Now I always have to put them directly in front of the food to eat. What could be the reason for this?"2022-04-11T08:58:53+02:00

Radiated tortoises that sit inactive and inappetent in a corner for a longer period of time show unmistakably that they are in a suboptimal housing situation and/or do not feel well. Check honestly and self-critically the offered housing conditions. Also read and study the recommendations for keeping the animals described on this website (especially regarding light, temperature, humidity, hygiene and food). If there is no improvement after the elimination of possible deficiencies or husbandry errors, it must be assumed that the animals are already seriously ill. In this case, consult a specialized veterinarian within a reasonable period of time. With early detection and prompt treatment, the chances of recovery are better.

FAQ "...I would like to get a group of radiated tortoises. Can I keep them in the garden with my European tortoises during the summer?"2022-04-11T09:01:49+02:00

Attention: Although Astrochelys radiata shows good social compatibility in most cases, we strongly advise against socialization with non-species turtles! Astrochelys radiata has a particular hypersensitivity to certain microorganisms foreign to the species. If these are taken up in excess, it can come to the displacement or to the death of the intestinal flora. The immune system is thus considerably and permanently weakened and chronic and insidious inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract can occur. These foci of inflammation can also spread throughout the body and lead to generalized organ failure. Presumably, the low tolerance of Astrochelys radiata to alien microorganisms is related to the endemic lifestyle and the inhabitation of a very special, limited, ecological, niche.

Also, do not buy turtles from mixed-race stocks, because they may already be infected with various carnivorous pathogens! Please note that a socialization of different species is always an expression of limited space and ignorance of individual needs. A socialization creates not only an increased risk of contamination but also additional and unnecessary stress for the animals.

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