The Turtle Lover's Utopia

Archive for the ‘Habitat’ Category

Event: Craft Hope Oil Spill Relief Project

Craft Hope Spreading seeds of hope one stitch at a time

Here is another event on the blog-o-sphere related to oil spill clean up. The fantastic folks at Craft Hope have partnered with The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, the Audubon Nature Institute, and the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge to assist them in their efforts in caring for and cleaning oiled marine mammals, mostly dolphins, other marine mammals, birds, and sea turtles.

Since these creatures are naturally curious and head straight towards all the oil slick activity, they’re asking all crafters who can sew, knit or crochet to send in sets of 10 – 20 hand-crafted wash towels and/or hand rags. They are, after all, called “Craft Hope”. These towels and rags will then be used to help clean up the mammals, birds and sea turtles. No worries on sending anything fancy.

Visit their website to get all the information on how to participate in their project, but don’t tarry…the project deadline is the end of August! All of your donations can be of great help!

Kill the Spill – Oil Spill Wildlife Cleanup

Kill the Spill Website - Help Fight the Oil Spill and Save Animals!

Looking for a way to help out with the oil spill? Check out this website by the Metalab, Campaign Monitor, SquareSpace and WooThemes websites titled Kill the Spill. They’re matching up to $35,000 worth of every dollar donated. You can make a donation as small as $10.00 and help make a difference for the animals affected by the oil spill.

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Friday Finds: Reptology Turtle Topper Basking Platform

Welcome to my new series, Friday Finds, where I’ll be showcasing a new turtle related product each Friday for all you turtle lovers out there. We’ll start off the series with…

Reptology Turtle Topper Basking Platform

The Turtle Topper is a unique and innovative platform designed to meet all the basking requirements of most aquatic turtles. Unlike other basking platforms, which are placed inside the turtle’s housing, the Turtle Topper is designed to sit on top of your turtle tank, providing both you and your turtle with many benefits over traditional basking platforms.

Since many aquatic turtles are active swimmers, the Turtle Topper allows you to maintain a deeper water level , resulting in (more…)

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BP Blocks Rescue Efforts to Save Turtles

BP may be cleaning up their oil spill, but they might be doing more harm than good in their efforts. A Louisiana shrimp boat captain hired by BP was captured on video saying that BP was burning up turtles and other marine life as part of the other oil slicked ocean debris. The Los Angeles Times reported on what is now being called the “Death by Fire” incident June 17, click here to read the story.

Plastic Bags are not Turtle Food

Sea turtle eating a plastic bag...

Photo from Are You Ready? Campaign, Melbourne Zoo

Can you imagine a turtle eating a plastic bag because it thought it was a jelly fish? A look at the photo from the Melbourne Zoo shows that’s exactly what has been happening all over the world. Do a Google search for “turtle plastic bag” and you will find thousands of pages detailing how marine life, not just turtles, are suffering from our careless use and discarding of plastic waste. While I’m finding articles dating as far back as 2000, I still see plenty of present day articles and blogs discussing how this is still a very serious issue with no end in sight if we don’t get actively involved.

Now you might say that the easiest way to effect change is to request paper bags when grocery shopping. However, while paper bags degrade in a month’s time (versus the 500 to 1000 years it takes for a plastic bag to degrade), the energy usage to create that bag is enormous, not to mention that we are quickly cutting into our earth and losing all the lovely green scenery that we tend to enjoy.

So what’s the answer? Responsible consumption. That, of course, will be an individual decision and while we would all probably like to be completely green, compromises may have to be made. For me, I was already reusing the shopping bags from my grocery store trips in waste containers all over the house. I’ll be switching to using a reusable canvas tote bag to do my shopping, but still use garbage bags to dispose of my waste. Once I use all my shopping bags, I’ll probably switch to containers that don’t allow for trash to get stuck in them (right now I have wicker trash baskets in the house), so that I can dump the trash into one main bag easily. To me, it’s worth all the effort if it will help save our marine life.

If you’re interested in more information on plastic bags, their life cycle and how they are affecting turtles, marine life and our environment, please visit these resources:

Looking for a source of reusable bags? You can get them at Ecobags or Reusable Bags.

So what are you going to do to reduce your use of plastic bags?

Considerations in Creating Ponds For Aquatic Turtles

PondBelow are several things you should consider before you dive into creating a pond for your aquatic turtle:

Liner versus Pre-Formed Ponds
Either type of pond can be used for aquatic turtles. The advantage of the liner is that you can form it any way that you like, including the ramps that turtles need to get in and out of the water. A disadvantage is that there is a slight chance a turtle’s claws could puncture the liner. It is also often a little easier to bury a pre-formed pond than to use a liner. Pre-formed ponds cost a little more for the same volume of water. This only becomes prohibitive with ponds over about 150 gallons, where a liner is simply much cheaper. For temporary housing outside, a kiddie pool with something in the center for basking could be used. Cement ponds are also possible but few people make them anymore. They are usually bad for turtles because they can scratch their shells on the cement and then get infections.

Pond Size and Dimensions
Obviously, “the larger the better” holds true for any animal’s accommodations but realistically, a pond that is primarily for water turtles should be in the 50 to 500 gallon range. This allows for easier cleaning and makes it easier to locate the turtles. The pond should have a variety of depths with ramps from one depth to another. For daily resting and sunning, there should be areas only a few inches deep so the turtles can be wet but have their heads free to breathe while resting. For swimming, any area about a foot deep suffices. If you plan to keep the turtles outside year round in cooler climates, they should have a spot that is at least two feet deep (or at least a foot below maximum ice depth) for hibernation (see hibernation).

Run Size and Dimensions

Land Runs
Aquatic turtles need to get out of the water. While they can do so on rocks and logs sticking out of the water, they should have the opportunity to feel the earth beneath their feet. Females need a sandy or dirt site to lay their eggs. Sometimes, the turtles want to walk around and investigate. The larger the run, the better it is for the turtles. Due to the effort and costs of fencing, it is more realistic to provide from 1 to 4 feet of ground away from the pond on some or all sides from the water.

Alternatives to land runs
If you would rather not have a run and fencing, there should be a shear cliff at least a foot high around the water. This could be accomplished with a rock wall or simply not filling the pond anywhere near the top. One can also make a stone overhang of the pond of at least 4 inches and then have the water at least 5 inches below that to keep the turtles inside. It becomes extra important without land to provide logs, rocks, etc. for the turtles to haul out and sun themselves. Many people make an island of rocks, styrofoam, or other materials in the middle of bathtub sized ponds.

Fencing is necessary if you do not want your turtles to run away (and they would). It also serves to keep out predators. You may need to even cover the top of the enclosure to keep predators out (chicken wire is fine for that). The fence should be about 2 feet high above ground. For a more accurate determination of the height necessary, it should be 2.5 times the maximum carapace length for the species you are retaining. Another 6 to 10 inches of fencing should be buried underground as most aquatic turtles will dig. Run a board or some other opaque material along the bottom 4 to 6 inches up or so. This prevents the turtles from rubbing on the wire and getting heads or feet stuck in the wire. It also keeps baby turtles in better. Climb barriers may be necessary for turtles that can climb the fence or the corners. Stinkpots and wood turtles are two species known to be able to climb many feet up a fence. An ideal fence would be vinyl or PVC coated hardware cloth (rabbit wire) over a frame of pressure-treated wood. If a gate is installed, be sure to bury a board under it to prevent digging out.

Places to Hide
Aquatic turtles need places to hide both in and out of the water. These provide places to get away from predators and each other. They also allow the turtles to regulate their temperature by moving to warmer or cooler locations during hot and cold spells. During the summer, they must have an area of shade to get out of the sun. Common hiding places include thick vegetation, large flower pots on their sides, hollow logs, and other similar hideaways.

Filtration, Cleaning, and Water Changes
Contrary to some people’s beliefs, water turtles are affected by the same chemicals in water as fish. These include ammonia, nitrite, nitrate (high levels), low oxygen, pesticides, herbicides, etc. Thus, their ponds should have a good filtration system. This is especially true since, just like fish, aquatic turtles do most of their eating and defecation in the water. An especially good filter is needed. While an ordinary pond can do with entire water turnover in two to three hours, a turtle pond should have turnover every half hour or so. Some people would say a turnover every two hours is fine but that really only holds true when there are few turtles in a large, planted pond. I would prefer a larger turnover with turtles in small ponds (under 500 gallons). For example, a 200 gallon pond should have at least a 400 gph pump. There should be a good pre-filter like a sponge or floss. This will need to be cleaned as often as it clogs, perhaps daily. The biological filtration should be adequate to keep ammonia and nitrite levels undetectable. An example setup might be a Pondmaster 700 (700 gph pump) in a 200-400 gallon pond. Remember, a 700 gph pump only pumps at 100 gph if it is old or clogged. If you can change about 10-20% of the water every week or two, that should be adequate if you do not have more than one turtle per 50 gallons or so. It is okay to change up to 50% of the water at one time as long as the temperature is close and proper amounts of de-chlorinator are added.

Housecleaning: The Art of Maintaining a Clean Environment for Your Turtle

Yuk! This was probably the worst thing about keeping my turtles, but if you plan on making sure that your herp lives a good life, you’d better take some time to clean their living area.

Keeping their environment as clean as possible is a very important part to caring for your herp, because they can be particularly susceptible to infection and disease.

How often you clean, disinfect, and sterilize depends on the type of herp you have – for example, terrestrial, aquatic, or semiaquatic. Here’s what you need to know:

For aquatic or semiaquatic turtles – Every two weeks, change between 30 and 60 percent of the water; a sponge filter will help keep the water clean. Once a month, disinfect the tank and change the water completely. To remove algae, scrub the aquarium walls with a brush. Do not use any cleaning agents to clean the tank as that will infect their water.

For terrestrial turtles – Clean their cage once a week, changing the substrate and disinfecting the terrarium. Provide a water dish large enough for him to soak in but shallow enough to allow for an easy exit. Be sure to change the water daily.