Dear tortoise friends, I am delighted that you are interested in Mediterranean tortoises and are looking through this husbandry guidebook. This book is particularly aimed at beginners in tortoise-keeping, including children. But the experienced keeper will probably also benefit from valuable and practical suggestions. My book should be regarded as a basic guide for keeping Hermann’s tortoises, Spur-thighed tortoises (Greek tortoises or Moorish tortoises), Horsfield’s tortoises (Russian tortoises, Central Asian tortoises, Steppe tortoises, Afghan tortoises or Four-toed tortoises) and Marginated tortoises.
I caught the ‘tortoise bug’ in 1999, and was immediately enthusiastic about getting to know these fascinating animals. My initial husbandry of tortoises was good, although less than perfect – but nowadays, my animals live in large outdoor enclosures with many rocks, hills and plants. The focus of this book is the keeping of tortoises in a naturalistic way. It is very important to me that these animals, which are not indigenous to our climatic regions, are able to enjoy a life that meets the needs of their species as much as possible. So, I asked myself how a captive environment can be created which closely resembles Mediterranean tortoises’ natural habitats. I will try to answer this question in this book – with many details and with explanatory photographs. I will emphasise husbandry in outdoor enclosures, as well as introduce suitable foraging plants. Serious mistakes can be made by incorrect husbandry methods and providing the wrong nutrition. In order to help avoid these mistakes right from the start, I can promise you many photographs showing my own tortoise enclosures and those of other expert keepers.
I will also introduce you to many suitable foraging plants with close up images for easy identification, which will hopefully help you provide an optimal diet for your animals. Even experienced keepers repeatedly come up against problems with hibernation. This book addresses these with detailed and important information. One example; an animal kept in best conditions throughout the summer will have the best chances to go through its hibernation without complications. This guide is based on my experiences with tortoise-keeping in Hessen, Germany. It’s important to note that regional temperatures may impact on periods of tortoise activity, and that therefore my husbandry recommendations may have to be modified. This is particularly relevant for other European countries, for which I have published this English-language book. Giving one example: my animals, kept in Hessen, wake up from hibernation in March – whereas tortoises kept in Switzerland would be surprised to wake up to high snow levels at that time! I hope you will enjoy reading my guide, where I will introduce you to the husbandry – guided by nature – of my tortoises, which have been part of my life for over 20 years.
There are many ways to keep tortoises, but I am sure that this book can make an important contribution to the best husbandry methods for them. This way, your tortoises can live a close-to-natural life, and you can enjoy their lives with them. I would also like to encourage you to share my advice with other tortoise owners, in order to enable a tortoise, which may, for example, be suffering a miserable existence in a rabbit cage, to live a better life. Nowadays, there are many products available for tortoise keeping, such as lamps, incubators, feeding plants, seed mixes etc. I will mention these as products available in Germany, but I hope that you will appreciate that I cannot list all products available in Europe. I would recommend that a local tortoise expert or organisation might be able to give you information about retailers and products available where you live. Over recent years I have published several German-language tortoise guide books which deal with special topics such as hibernation, nutrition and enclosure building. This book should be regarded as a basic guide only. Further information can be obtained not only through my range of German-language books, but also at conferences and by sharing information with tortoise friends and experts. And perhaps, one day, we will meet personally at a conference or another event.
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