testudo graeca

The greek tortoise is a popular tortoise in temperate climates as it is comfortable at slightly cooler temperatures. They are closely related to the African spur-thighed tortoise, and are frequently called Greek spur-thighed tortoises. The major differences between the Greek and the African spur-thigh are size and diet. Greek tortoises are usually a dark tan and brown color.

This species is legal to own under CITES law, but in many countries must be registered. They are native to Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Macedonia, Moldova, Morocco, Romania, Russia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the Ukraine, and Yugoslavia.

Greek tortoises make excellent, low-maintenance pets. Their primary diet consists of leafy greens, especially Romaine lettuce, kale, etc. They can also eat carrot peelings, but will tend to prefer Romaine. They usually will not eat Iceberg lettuce or spinach. A cuttlefish bone should be made available at all times. Once your tortoise is large enough to live outside, it will also eat weeds from your garden while avoiding most other plants.

Young tortoises should be kept inside the house. Your tortoise's housing should be large enough to permit some wandering. It should contain a hide (somewhere that the tortoise can get under, like a hollowed-out log or half a shoebox), the aforementioned cuttlefish bone, and some sort of substrate in and around the hide that is small enough for the tortoise to dig in, but not so small that the tortoise will ingest the substrate. Cedar and aspen shavings are not recommended as tortoises cannot digest them, and gravel is even worse as it may impact the tortoise's digestive tract. I use coconut pellets, which don't taste good to tortoises but are at least digestible. I also suggest you only use the substrate on part of your cage, and use newspaper as the main portion of your cage lining, as it is impossible for the tortoise to eat it and soaks up urine and feces much better than other substrates. Your housing should also have a heating element of some sort. The temperature should be about 75 degrees in places, but place the element on one side of the housing to create a temperature gradient so that your tortoise can regulate its own temperature. As your enclosure grows, you may need to purchase a heat lamp. You should also have a UVB Reptile light--these are fairly expensive, around $100US for the lighting system. It will look ugly, but it'll keep your tortoise alive. If you can give your tortoise a minimum of 12 hours of direct sunlight a day, you can forgo the UVB reptile light, but this is not practical for most people. Another option is a VERY low-rimmed water dish--tortoises aren't much on climbing.

Hatchlings are usually only an inch or two long, and should be kept in a cage until they are too large for birds to molest or eat. At a size of about 5 inches they can be kept in a low-fenced garden in warmer areas during the summer, but beware, for they can dig very well. My mother's African spur-thigh once dug a hole five feet down and twelve feet across under the foundation of our house. The greek is smaller, however--African spur-thighs average about 12"-18" (females slightly smaller), while greeks average about 6"-8".

Feed your greek tortoise as much as it can eat. Greek tortoises are herbivorous grazers, like cows. You should also bathe your tortoise three to four times a week. Use a shallow dish of body-temperature water, making sure that your tortoise can get its head above the water. You may want to purchase a soft toothbrush and occasionally brush the shell, especially if the tortoise lives outdoor. Let your tortoise soak for about 10 minutes or so, and then lightly dry on a towel so he won't stick to his substrate too badly. I usually use this time to change my cage lining.

When you handle your tortoise, remember to have paper towels nearby--the notion of "holding it" doesn't occur to them. They poop where they are. So be prepared to wipe. When you're done handling your tortoise, always wash your hands, as there is a VERY remote chance of salmonella. Be wary when letting children hold your tortoise, as even a small crack to the shell can be fatal.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.