Sunday, October 13, 2019

Help! My Home's Hingeback Tortoise is Sick, Won't Eat, or Died. What did I do wrong?

Help My Home's Hingeback!

I successfully established after intensive rehydration efforts.  One year later, it's just starting to put on shell growth.

My Home's hingeback won't eat! It just hides all the time.  It won't eat greens or tortoise pellets?  What am I doing wrong?

You're not alone. Imported Home's Hingeback (Kinixys homeana) tortoises are one of the most difficult pet tortoises to care for. They often hide in a corner, don't move, and don't eat. But why is this?

Most animals available today are imported from Western Africa.  They are caught by local foragers, brought to markets, and are either sold as food, or they make their way to an exporter.  Once they are collected and exported, they may have been without food or water for weeks or longer.

From the exporter, they are shipped abroad, sent to the importing facility, then often to a distributor, and then to a pet store or reptile dealer.  By that time, they have been shipped thousands of miles and kept in deplorable conditions.  They are often septic, anorexic, and chronically dehydrated.  Quite simply, when they make it to a pet store or a reptile show, they are on death's door, and any imported animal should be treated as such.

Finally, hingeback tortoise care is nothing like most tortoises.  These animals are very different from most tortoises that live open habitats.  Home's hingebacks, also incorrectly called Forest Hingebacks by pet dealers, are more like box turtles.  They are able to swim, love the water, and eat lots of live and dead animal protein.

What You Need to do to Save Your Home's Hingeback

1.  Hydration, Hydration, Hydration.

 I cannot stress this enough.  If you have a hingeback that won't eat, barely moves, and hides all day long, it is most likely severely dehydrated.

Soak the tortoise at least once a day in warm water for at least an hour.  I have successfully used a electrolyte hydration solution of water, sugar, lite salt, and baking soda.  Find the recipe and learn more about hydration at The Tortoise Library.

Once you have the tortoise properly hydrated, always have fresh water dish available for the tortoise to soak its entire body in its enclosure.

2.  Temperature, Temperature, Temperature.

These animals are from Africa, so they need it hot, right?  WRONG! When you heat a hingeback tortoise enclosure so that any part of it is over 85 degrees, it makes it NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to provide their needed humidity requirements, and in essence, you will just be baking and drying out your tortoise, totally ruining any progress you've made in step #1.  Hingebacks do well at room temperature.  I routinely keep mine at temperatures ranging from 70-80 degrees without any sort of heat bulb, light, emitter, etc.  Repeat after me: Home's Hingeback tortoises are reptiles, but they don't need a hotspot! Deep substrates and frequent "rain events" and misting also help keep humidity up.

3. Light, Light, Light

I offer a light gradient for my Home's Hingeback, giving them an option to hide in the shadows or bask.
You don't need bright lights for Home's hingebacks.  In fact, Home's hingebacks hate bright light.  They have giant eyes adapted to seeing in the dark.  In the wild, they are active at night and during dusk or dawn.  If you have bright light on them, they will just hide all day and never be very active.  Create a light gradient- one side of the cage have available light, the other quite dark, and a nice transition zone between where the tortoise can choose where it wants to be.  

4. Protein, Protein, Protein

Home's hingebacks eat protein.  I have found that whole animal protein is the best food to offer an anorexic tortoise and most will readily consume it. I have found whole frozed-thawed fish like silversides, fed to tropical fish and available at pet stores, are readily consumed.  Another favorite are live snails and slugs.  If you can't find live animals, Zoo Med's Can-o-Snails are another source.  Earthworms are also readily consumed. Try a whole variety of whole animal protein to see what your hingeback might take a stab at.  Once you find something it likes, keep offering it until it achieves a safe, healthy weight, and then you can experiment with other offerings.

And I almost forgot. All hingebacks LOVE mushrooms and fungi makes up a fairly large part of their diet in the wild.

5. Vet, Vet, Vet

Once you have your tortoise hydrated and eating, it's time to have it examined and treated for parasites.  It will have them- nematodes are protozoans are particularly common.  Your tortoise should see a qualified tortoise veterinarian and be treated for parasites!

Have more questions?  Leave a comment, I'll be in touch.  YOU CAN DO THIS!

The motto here: No Kinixys left behind!

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