What every good Aunt should know about looking after a tortoise or two.
First, find your tortoise.
If you are there between say October and April you may not see it at all as it will be hibernating, nicely tucked up for the duration. It’s possible that the owner may ask you to weigh the reptile if you are house sitting for a long period. Only sick, underweight or very young tortoises are prevented from having a long sleep.
So, for the remainder of the year proceed as follows. Look carefully in the creature’s paddock. This will take some doing as the grass will be at least two feet high and be interspersed with brambles, docks and nettles. You may possibly see bits of Waitrose organic salad stuff scattered about. Always distribute their food (lettuce leaves, not iceberg as it has little nutritional value) baby tomatoes, cucumber and grapes. Probably better than you will be having for your lunch!
Make sure it’s up and about every morning, at least by midday. Also ensure it has retired to bed (clean bedding). I don’t think there are any bedtime stories for tortoises. When you first meet and greet your tortoise you will want to get up close and personal i.e. pick it up, go a bit ga ga and execute a selfie if you are under forty or so. Be careful, it has claws and knows how to use them.
Tortoises have nerve endings in their shells. The upper body shell is called the carapace. Don’t be tempted to drum out chopsticks or something on its back. It might not have the same taste in music as you. Remember also that the tortoise you are carefully holding will probably outlive you! The oldest tortoise alive is 184 years and living on St Helena. He sleeps about 16 hours a day, doesn’t eat any meat, doesn’t go to the gym or run about much. Clearly he’s never worked for Animal Aunts.
By Aunties Liz & Brian