Mediterranean tortoises are rousing from hibernation this time of year, and really need conditions to be correct in order to thrive and return to good health following a long period of fasting and dormancy over winter. The critical factors which must be provided correctly to ensure they return to good health and begin eating promptly after waking are provision of appropriate heating and lighting. If keeping them outdoors in the garden straight away after waking from hibernation, they really are at the mercy of the British weather; often too cold and too wet to kick start their metabolic rate which is heavily reliant on external temperature. If tortoises don’t receive the correct heating and UV lighting in this critical period, they often fail to regain appetite, immunity declines, they can become dehydrated and burn off even more of their already depleted energy reserves leaving them prone to infections and organ dysfunction, failure or even death. It is therefore critical that supplemental heating and lighting is provided with a heat lamp and UV light for any period when the British weather is poor, but especially so in the immediate post hibernation period in Spring.
Last weekend I had a post hibernation check in a lovely 30 year old Spur-thigh tortoise named Mr Slow. He was the picture of health, and his very caring owner had commissioned her handy neighbour to build him a state of the art tortoise house in the garden which catered to all of his needs mentioned above. As you can see from the photos below, he has a beautiful house with thermostatically controlled, weather proof porch leading to a covered sleeping area. He has a combined heat and UVB lamp under which to bask which is on a timer, and a special UVB penetrating Perspex sunroof for natural sunlight exposure even on cold days. A ramp leads to the enclosed escape-proof garden for when it is warmer and he wants to head off and explore! Luxury digs indeed…..
More info on tortoise hibernation, overwintering and post hibernation problems in my previous blog posts here: