Frequently asked questions
In the following toggle boards sorted by topics you will find frequently asked questions about keeping and breeding Astrochelys radiata. Please read and study for information about keeping and breeding first the corresponding topics on this homepage and make sure before sending a mail request, if your or a similar question has already been answered in one of the toggle boards.
- Tortoises for sale
- Outdoor enclosure
- Indoor enclosure
Both the organism and the feeding instinct of Astrochelys radiata are adjusted to extremely low-calorie and raw fiber-rich food according to their meager original biotope. Radiated tortoises are therefore instinctively constantly foraging and must eat appropriate foods throughout the day to achieve a balanced and adequate diet. They have the same impulse when in human care. They want to eat as much and as often as possible, however, they often do not find and receive low-calorie feeds in our care, but downright protein and sugar bombs in the form of fruits, vegetables and salads. Qualitatively, high-quality basic fodder is therefore of special importance for the healthy maintenance. The products listed on this website under the Category premium food listed feeds are suitable both in fresh and dried state herrvorrgend as a basic food for the year-round and wholesome diet of Astrochelys radiata. Especially dried premium food (dried blossoms, leaves, herbs, hay and Agrobs) cannot be overdosed, because the high raw fiber content automatically creates a healthy feeling of satiety. Premium food left over in the enclosure and not contaminated can still be fed on the following days without any problems.
Radiated tortoises always belong in an outdoor enclosure during the warm season, in sunny and dry weather! Provided that the sun is shining, the outdoor enclosure is located on a southern exposure and the animals can warm up in a heated cold frame or greenhouse, radiated tortoises are allowed into the outdoor enclosure already from 15°C outside temperature. Only during longer periods of cold and wet weather and low temperatures should the radiated tortoises be kept exclusively in heated, enclosed shelters or in the indoor enclosure.
If the sun is shining, we let our animals already at the beginning of March for a few hours in the outdoor enclosure, so that they can refuel extensively UV light and fresh air. Over midday it may then have mild temperatures of 15 to 20°C. Sometimes there is still some snow in the outdoor enclosure, but this does not seem to bother the animals. At the latest from 16 o'clock all animals must be again in the heated turtle house. The night is always spent in the transitional periods in a heated and protected indoor!
Warm and dry summers our radiated tortoises are allowed to spend day and night in the outdoor enclosure. In midsummer, all lights and heating elements in the cold frames and in the indoor enclosure remain switched off. The roof flaps of the cold frames for the hatchlings are then always open to prevent overheating. In summers with tropical nights, we also close the entrance to the indoor enclosure for the adult turtles, so that they can spend the night under bushes in the outdoor enclosure as close to nature as possible.
In order to benefit optimally from the natural sunlight, we also try to allow the stay in the outdoor enclosure as long as possible in autumn. If the weather remains sunny and dry, ray turtles can make forays into the outdoor enclosure during the day until the end of October. However, the animals should then always spend the nights in heated and locked shelters. At the latest when the power of the sun decreases, the outside temperatures drop below 15°C and there are persistent wet and cold weather conditions, radiated tortoises must be brought into the heated winter quarters until the next spring.
The organism of ray turtles is relatively well adapted to water scarcity. The animals can also cover part of their water requirements by ingesting food containing water (e.g. succulents). When water is available, the animals always take in more than is currently needed and store it in the bladder. The animals then draw on this water supply during drought. During long periods of drought, the animals hide in hiding places and go into a kind of dry torpor to save water and resources. Especially young animals seem to fall into this energy saving mode faster and more often than adults in dry conditions. With the help of these water and energy saving mechanisms, radiated tortoises can easily survive several months without direct water intake. Attention: A too dry keeping in connection with low air humidity always results in an increased liquid requirement for radiation turtles. A dry keeping also automatically means a stress situation for the animals, which they absolutely want to compensate.
This question is very difficult to answer, because an enclosure for a wild animal can never be big enough. We always admire and are very happy about the loving generosity of individual turtle keepers who provide entire indoor spaces with adjacent gardens for their few animals and spare no expense and effort for the well-being of their turtles.
Radiated tortoises are very active tortoises with a great need for exercise. As a rough rule of thumb, you can assume that the mass for an indoor enclosure is at least should be 10x the carapace length in length and width. For an outdoor enclosure 20x the carapace length in length and width. For each additional animal 2x the carapace length in length and width. These specifications should be not be undercut! Of course, the enclosure sizes must always be expanded with the growth of the turtle. The enclosure size should always be chosen sufficiently large, so that the turtles can find different light and temperature zones in it.
The keeping and breeding of Astrochelys radiata in our latitudes is connected with a high, financial expenditure. The annual costs for electricity, technical equipment, high-quality greenhouses and year-round, species-appropriate food are considerable. Breeding often succeeds only in irregular intervals and the rearing needs a lot of time, patience and expertise. The regular documentation of the offspring and application for official papers with the authorities is also associated with fees and an administrative burden. Adult, reproductive, smooth, healthy and legal breeding pairs, single females or High Yellow specimens are still rare to buy and consumption on the international markets is steadily increasing. Supply and demand determine the price here as well. Also keep in mind that by buying a legal Swiss offspring at a fair price, you also conserve the natural stocks and contribute sustainably to the preservation and protection of the species.
The regular feeding of salads, vegetables and fruits is probably one of the most pernicious and harmful misconceptions in turtle keeping. This persistent and repetitive habit mainly stems from the fact that these products are actually healthy, plant-based foods for humans and can therefore be bought and used easily, quickly and always available, and on the other hand, fatally, they are also readily eaten by the turtles.
If you consider the habitat of tortoises, it becomes clear that cultivated salads, vegetables and fruits, but also juicy and protein-rich meadows are not part of the natural food supply. The intestine of a tortoise cannot properly digest this too soft, protein-rich and sugar-containing food. Even occasional feeding leads to a disturbed balance of microorganisms in the intestine. This imbalance in the gut sometimes leads to severe diarrhea. Since tortoises are unfortunately not able to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy food, colorful and interesting smelling fruits, vegetables and salads are always eaten very gladly and greedily when available. Gout, constipation, shell deformities and fatty liver and even death are the result.
Basically, all commercial types of lettuce are an inferior food for turtles. Lettuce contains mainly water, has practically no raw fiber rich in fiber and also no noteworthy or valuable ingredients such as vitamins or trace elements. Nutritionally and energy-wise, lettuce is an absolute no-go for turtles. Lettuce is primarily a cultivated food crop of humans and is grown in different varieties in large monocultures. Residues of phosphate and pesticides make it even more unsuitable for feeding turtles. Due to its high water requirements, it also does not grow in wild form in the dry habitats of tortoises. Thus, it is absolutely impossible for a ray tortoise that originates from a semi-arid zone to ever come into contact with a lettuce-like plant in the wild.
Yes, we also sell Radiated Tortoises to serious, informed and well-prepared beginners who already have a species-appropriate indoor and natural outdoor facility (garden) before the purchase. We are also available after the purchase for questions about keeping and breeding.
FAQ "...Turtles are not pets but wild animals and belong in their natural biotope. If at all, such animals should only be kept in professional facilities such as zoos or nature reserves. Why do you keep, breed and sell strictly protected ray turtles?"
The keeping and breeding of strictly protected wild animals outside their natural habitat is indeed controversial. It is certainly undisputed that animals always feel most comfortable in their natural habitat and also have the best chances of reproduction and survival. But what if the natural habitat becomes less and less, or soon no longer exists, and the species continues to be inexorably decimated due to various circumstances and factors? What if the destruction of the biotopes has already progressed so far that the animals can no longer survive without the help of humans? Are the last remaining dry forests in nature reserves really sufficient to maintain genetic diversity and thus guarantee the survival of a species in the future? Are there really no alternatives for the preservation of the species than overcrowded Madagascan sanctuaries or breeding stations, with insufficient resources and no prospect of a safe reintroduction?
It is truly a dilemma, because without full protection, conservation and expansion of the natural habitats on Madagascar, Astrochelys radiata will always remain a shaky candidate on the conservation list! Even international conventions and restrictive bans regulating the trade and use of the animals cannot prevent the extinction of this species as long as the natural habitats remain intact and existing in the future. The fact is that without the timely intervention, immediate protection, as well as targeted breeding programs in recent years, the Malagasy radiated tortoise would also have already disappeared from this planet. Probably the only legitimation for keeping and breeding Astrochelys radiata outside of Madagascar is that this will conserve the dwindling local natural populations and that with each legal offspring a removal from the wild will become superfluous and thus, quite incidentally, the worldwide animal smuggling will come to a standstill a bit more. If local ray turtle populations die out faster than expected and Madagascan breeding stations are quarantined for a longer period of time for animal health reasons, the creation and preservation of different genetic ray turtle pools outside Madagascar could suddenly prove to be extremely useful.
In fact, our priorities and views regarding the keeping and breeding of Madagascan Radiated Tortoises have changed considerably in recent years. The initial ambitious focus on targeted breeding programs is now increasingly on a species-appropriate and natural husbandry of these beautiful animals. Today we use our collected experiences with Astrochelys radiata mainly for the mediation and the exchange of knowledge. In this sense, this homepage is also available as an information platform for all interested parties. Admittedly, from a moral and animal-ethical point of view, we are also increasingly critical of our ray-turtle keeping in central Switzerland. Does it really make sense to keep a strictly protected species, which does not belong to our latitudes at all, with great energy expenditure? If we had the certainty that from today on all ray-turtles on Madagascar would be safe, we would also look for ways and means to transfer our breeding group back to their original home.
FAQ "...My ray turtle eats only salads, fruits and vegetables. Hay, dried flowers, leaves and herbs, on the other hand, are completely spurned. What should I do?"
Since turtles are unfortunately not able to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy food, colorful and interesting smelling fruits, vegetables and salads are always eaten greedily and in excess. However, after years of malnutrition, ray turtles develop real eating disorders and unlearn or refuse to eat natural and suitable food. Gout, constipation, shell deformities and fatty liver and even death are usually the result of an inappropriate diet.
In order to save the life of your turtle, it is imperative to reintroduce it to species-appropriate food. However, a change of food must be done slowly, consistently and over a longer period of time, so that sufficient raw fiber-utilizing bacteria can settle in the gastrointestinal tract again. In a first step, we recommend to mix the daily, usual food ration with premium food (e.g. Agrobs, dried herbs, etc., see food section). Over time, the proportion of unhealthy food should be reduced more and more and the proportion of premium food gradually increased until the turtle has become completely accustomed to natural food again. This adaptation process can take several months depending on the extent of the eating disorder, but in most cases it succeeds without problems. However, damage already done to organs, bones and shell due to years of malnutrition is irreversible and can still lead to health problems even after a change in diet.
It would be nice.... ;-). However, the reality in our latitudes is that keeping and breeding Radiated Tortoises on a private level already involves such a high financial outlay that not even the basic annual costs for electricity, repairs, illuminants, greenhouses, food, etc. can be covered by the sale of hatchlings. In order to make the breeding of tropical tortoises profitable, the keeping would have to have the dimension of a tightly organized and optimized tortoise farm with several dozens of breeding animals, which regularly lay hundreds of eggs, which could then all be hatched without great losses and the young animals sold. The sales to serious interested parties with species-appropriate husbandry situations is so small in this country, however, that in time they would have to serve international markets, as well as worldwide, unscrupulous animal traders or even markets for food or alternative medicine production.
Today, we see the motivation and legitimacy of private breeding programs in Europe primarily in the fact that through the legal sale of offspring, the natural stocks on Madagascar can be sustainably conserved in the future. The initial joy and euphoria about the first breeding successes gave way over time, however, to concerns about a long-term and species-appropriate housing of all young animals. Most of our offspring do not reach reproductive age due to poor husbandry conditions and many keepers lose interest in building up their own breeding group over time due to the slow change of generations and the great effort involved. From our point of view, keeping and breeding Radiated Tortoises primarily requires joy and interest in the matter as well as some idealism.
In case of purchase of several young animals (at least 4 pieces) and the unsolicited, transparent proof of a perfect husbandry situation, we are happy to give a fair discount.
Basically, radiated tortoises are individualists and roam alone and independently through their respective territories. They are not dependent on permanent, lasting, social contacts with conspecifics. However, seasonally, e.g. during mating season or at suitable water, feeding or sunning places, ray turtles meet conspecifics again and again and then show a species-specific, interactive social behavior. For the attitude in human care this means that one can hold radiation turtles over a longer period and above all seasonally quite individually. However, it would be species-appropriate to allow them contact with conspecifics from time to time. Astrochelys radiata is a rather peaceful tortoise, so both males and females can be kept together in small groups without any problems. However, when keeping a group, always make sure that there is enough space with possibilities for escape and separation! With regard to the preservation of the species, the striving for intact breeding groups seems to be quite reasonable.
Hatchlings of radiated tortoises often gather closely together in hiding places in the rearing tanks, which sometimes gives the impression that the animals also seek physical proximity to conspecifics. Whether group gatherings of hatchlings also occur in the wild, e.g. under decaying leaves in dry forests, is not known. This could also be rather coincidental, because good, air-conditioned hiding places are simply popular and in demand in the wild as well.
FAQ "...Your comments on the homepage gave the impression that you only sell animals to wealthy prospective buyers who have luxury facilities for tortoises. For fear of criticism, we are afraid that with our simpler husbandry situation, we will not be able to purchase a Radiated Tortoise from you. Do species-appropriate facilities for Radiated Tortoises always have to be connected with a high financial expenditure?"
It is neither our intention nor in our interest to criticize or badmouth other husbandry situations. From our many years of work and experience with the keeping and breeding of Astrochelys radiata, we simply point out to interested parties before the acquisition of absolutely necessary basic equipment and possible optimization potential to be able to keep Radiated Tortoises healthy in the long term. There is absolutely nothing elitist behind it. Also our own keeping situation could be extended and improved with the appropriate financial means. A constant questioning and optimizing of the own attitude situation always benefits the animals in the end. However, on this homepage under the heading Checklist The points listed below are to be understood as minimum requirements for the species-appropriate keeping of Astrochelys radiata in our latitudes. Our customers will confirm that all those who take our well-meant suggestions for improvement into account and implement them will always be able to purchase a Radiated Tortoise from us. However, animal welfare is not negotiable!
FAQ "...I live in Switzerland and am the owner of a Radiated Tortoise without official papers and proof of origin. I bought this animal a long time ago / inherited it / got it as a gift / took it with me on vacation. Today I know that this was unwise and a big, punishable mistake. Unfortunately, I now have to part with my Radiated Tortoise for private reasons. Can I apply for papers for this animal with the authorities afterwards?"
Attention: Radiated Tortoises without valid documents are and remain illegal! It is not possible to apply for papers for these animals at a later date. An illegal status does not expire either. It is strictly forbidden to trade these animals or to make a border crossing with them. In case of contravention there is the threat of confiscation and fines (an exception are ray-turtles, which were demonstrably imported into Switzerland before 1973, i.e. before the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species)! Ignorance and guileless intentions do not protect from penalties!
We suspect that currently a large number of undocumented ray turtles are living in Switzerland or are kept privately. Since no additional permit is required for the keeping of Astrochelys radiata and there is also no obligation to register, the official controls are largely limited to the trade and border crossing. Keeping a Radiated Tortoise without papers is in principle not a criminal offense within Switzerland, only in case of suspicion of abuse or other illegal activities, the authorities become active and also control private stocks. Because breeding with these animals is not allowed officially, they mostly remain genetically isolated and excluded from the conservation of the species. As long as no amnesty is provided for undocumented ray turtles, they simply remain blocked for life in Switzerland.
We are of the opinion that illegal and smuggled ray turtles cannot be held responsible for their status and are therefore all the more entitled to a species-appropriate home! Therefore, regardless of the status of your turtle, you are still responsible for optimal housing, husbandry and care. Should you for any reason no longer be able to care for your ray turtle, BEVET recommends that you also document animals without papers and place them within Switzerland with a placement contract. In the placement contract the illegal status of the animal is disclosed and all parties are informed about the circumstances of the origin and free release within Switzerland. It is important to note that these animals may not be traded in the future and may not cross the border! By documenting and signing the previous owner, a new ownership can at least prove that they cannot be held responsible for the origin, procurement and illegal status of the animal.
In case of uncertainty and further questions on the subject, please contact the Federal Veterinary Office in Bern directly. You will find the contact details under the heading Links on this homepage.
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?"
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.
FAQ "...I keep a group of 1.3 Radiated Tortoises for many years. The weights of the animals are between 5 and 9 kg. Unfortunately, I have never been able to observe mating or egg laying in my animals. What could be the reason for this?"
For a targeted and regular breeding of Astrochelys radiata you need above all patience and perseverance. If a group of Radiated Tortoises is already raised together as young animals, the animals sometimes get used to each other under relatively low-stimulus and constant conditions, like an old married couple, in such a way that they turn out to be regular mating muffle even though they have reached sexual maturity. We therefore recommend to make the daily life of the animals more "stimulating". Raising the temperature to 30-35°C and humidity to 80%, as well as regular exposure to the sun and fresh air will work wonders. Separating the sexes for several weeks without the animals being able to see and smell each other also has a very stimulating effect when they meet again. Considering the ritualized mating behavior of the animals, the presence of several males is also beneficial. Critically check whether all husbandry parameters have been implemented consistently. If none of the measures should be effective after several repetitions, a new composition of the group with exchange of single specimens is to be considered. In rare cases an inflammation and degeneration of the ovaries caused by viruses or bacteria can occur with irreversible infertility. We consider a regular breeding program of Astrochelys radiata in an indoor environment, without access to natural sunlight, to be out of the question.
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?"
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 do not feel obligated as a paying customer to document my husbandry situation to you. You must already believe me that I am an experienced and long-time successful tortoise keeper. Don't you find disclosing and documenting private husbandry conditions a bit presumptuous and impertinent?"
Please respect the need to return our lovingly cared for and nurtured Radiated Tortoises to responsible and reputable hands!
For someone who confidently introduces himself to us with years of experience in keeping and breeding tortoises, it should usually be no problem to show a few impressions from his keeping. In embarrassing foreboding, dubious persons try us however again and again under pretexts to stall and to deceive, so that under no circumstances a picture proof of a species-appropriate husbandry must be presented. Also the often heard excuse that no photos of the facility and the outdoor enclosure are currently available, seems to us in today's digitalized society with SMS, WhatsApp and e-mail rather unlikely. Our experience shows and teaches us that our offspring are in the best hands with transparent, honest and serious buyers. We ourselves are always very open about our husbandry situation, so we believe that we can expect a certain transparency and honest communication from our customers in return.
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?"
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 "...Help, my ray turtle shows the following syptoms "..."! What does my turtle have and what can I do?"
More and more often we receive e-mails via RADIATA.CH from concerned owners of radiation turtles, who describe to us the symptoms of their sick animals. Even though we would like to help in every single case, we are not veterinarians and cannot make reliable remote diagnoses. Through our work and experience with Astrochelys radiata, we can sometimes express a suspicion in some cases, based on the symptoms described, but you should always discuss and verify with the veterinarian of your confidence.
As a first measure, we always recommend quarantining sick animals immediately under comfort care. Always keep sick animals warm on a clean and easy to clean surface and offer fresh green food. Careful bathing in low, warm water can help stabilize the water balance and relax the radiated tortoises. If possible, visit a specialized turtle clinic as soon as possible, because often the most urgent action is required as soon as the disease is noticed.
FAQ "...Do radiated tortoises also hold a cold torpor? Can I overwinter them together with my Greek tortoises?"
Attention: Radiated tortoises originate from a subtropical climate zone. Their body has therefore no physical adaptation and prerequisite to survive a seasonal cold drought, such as European tortoises hold. Attempting to hibernate a radiated tortoise will end fatally for the animal! Please inform yourself before the acquisition in detail about the needs and keeping conditions of these animals!
In order to check the growth and sex distribution, we always randomly keep single, selected juveniles for breeding and observation in our breeding station. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, we cannot keep all these special holdback animals, so we also give away sexed or adult females and rare High Yellow specimens from time to time. It is a matter of the heart for us that only the best foster homes are considered for animals that we have raised with love and care for years and have built up a personal relationship with! Therefore, don't forget to document your housing concept and the future care situation with your request. With optimal care places it is easier for us to hand over our darlings reassured and with a good conscience. If there are no adult animals available at the moment, keepers who can offer the animals a species-appropriate housing situation will be noted and given priority when they become available again. It is not our philosophy to give away our animals into an uncertain or suboptimal care situation. An optimal, species-appropriate keeping always has priority over the price.
Yes, you are welcome to send pictures of your Radiated Tortoise for sex determination. From experience we can usually make a relatively safe statements about the sex of larger animals. With small animals, however, a sex determination from the picture is a challenge even for us and usually not possible. Often only a tendency can be made out. In order to be able to determine the sex as precisely as possible, a good image quality with an optimal shooting angle is a prerequisite. Also crucial is the degree of relaxation of the intimate area of the pictured tortoise. For sex determination we need a clear image of the anal region and a view of the plastron. Especially the tail with the cloacal opening, relaxed and not attached to the body, should be clearly visible.
Please note that a sex determination from a picture always allows for misinterpretations and therefore we can not make any binding porognoses about the sex. If interested in a non-binding assessment, send the image material by e-mail to email@example.com. We will get back to you within a reasonable period of time.