Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

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Re: Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

Postby Matt » Mon Apr 11, 2011 5:39 pm

If you read my post again Andy, all I was saying was that it could give the "wrong impression", the general public might think that it's okay for a tortoise to get that cold even just for short periods, I don't.
Luckily were all entitled to our own opinions and mine is that stating Zero degrees C as the minimum critical temperature for a tortoise in any context is far to low.
 If a person can't maintain a temperature above 2 or 3 degrees C then I see no reason to expect them to be able to keep their tortoise above freezing on a very cold night either. If they want to stay up and check the temperature every hour as you suggest, then that's up to them, for me it would be easier to end the hibernation and get a fridge for next year.
Personally my minimum cut off point and the end of hibernation under those circumstances would be 2 C, I wouldn't risk my tortoise getting any colder and would get her up.
 I can see no reason for telling the general public a tortoises minimum critical temperature is zero C, to be safe they need to get their tortoise up long before it gets that cold. 

Anyway thats my thoughts on this and as you're obviously happy with the way you have worded it, then that's fine by me.


I would never recommend box hibernating anyway, if it is that cold and you are having to use a heater to maintain temperatures you could get a power cut, as you have pointed out many times before and that could quite possibly mean a dead or blind tortoise over night.
The safer ways are dug in to the ground inside an insulated shed etc or inside their own fridge in a house.  Both hopefully well protected from Rats and frosts. 
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Re: Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

Postby Tortoise Trust » Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:02 am

Matt wrote:If you read my post again Andy, all I was saying was that it could give the "wrong impression", the general public might think that it's okay for a tortoise to get that cold even just for short periods, I don't.
Luckily were all entitled to our own opinions and mine is that stating Zero degrees C as the minimum critical temperature for a tortoise in any context is far to low.
  


It does not say that. Nowhere does it say or even imply it is "OK" for a tortoise to be exposed to freezing point.

It makes it perfectly clear that 0 degrees WILL BLIND OR KILL. It states it multiple times. It also makes it 100% clear that a hibernating box only slows down heat exchange and that no matter what insulation anyone has, exposure to 0 degrees is potentially lethal.

It really is that clear. As far as I am aware, no-one has ever misunderstood it. No-one. Not one single person since 1986 has ever contacted us to question this, or request further clarification. I would suggest that anyone reading it will be in no doubt whatsoever that freezing kills or blinds.

Again, we recommend 5 C as a safe temperature (not 2 or even 3 C). That is to take account of misreadings.

This guide was specifically aimed at people who hibernate in sheds and outbuildings. Thousands still do - despite our extensive other information on alternate, safer methods. No matter what you say, or I say, many will continue to do so. If this advice is followed to the letter, the tortoises WILL NOT FREEZE. Simple as that.
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Re: Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

Postby Matt » Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:05 pm

" It states it multiple times. It also makes it 100% clear that a hibernating box only slows down heat exchange and that no matter what insulation anyone has, exposure to 0 degrees is potentially lethal. "

I agree with you Andy :D "exposure to 0 degrees can be lethal, so why does it clearly state that.....

"Under no circumstances whatsoever should a hibernating tortoise be subjected to prolonged exposure to temperatures higher or lower than these." critical temperatures.

MAXIMUM = 50 °F or l0 °C
MINIMUM = 32 °F or 0 °C (Freezing Point)

- ALWAYS USE A THERMOMETER - IT SAVES LIVES!! -

Lower than 0 °C as far as I am concerned is -1 °C. Temperatures we both agree a tortoise should never reach. Whether the owner is using a thermometer or not!! 

That statement on its own is very misleading, the word "prolonged" would seem to imply that a short period at that temperature is okay and the phrase "lower than" may possible make people think that 0 °C is in some way okay too. 

Let's face it a lot of keepers haven't got much common sense, or they wouldn't leave a tortoise in a box in a shed all winter (without closely keeping an eye on the temperature) while they are in their house with their heating running full blast.
 If you feel a tortoise needs to be kept between say 4 & 7 degrees then you should clearly state it, don't mention two critical temperatures of 0°C & 10 °C and then say 

"ALWAYS USE A THERMOMETER - IT SAVES LIVES!! -" 

It's very misleading.  :?
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Re: Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

Postby Tortoise Trust » Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:37 pm

Matt wrote:
It's very misleading.  :?


It is clear and it is accurate. Period.

For the very last time... it refers to the ENVIRONMENT SURROUNDING AN INSULATED HIBERNATION BOX.

Fact: Even if the external temperature did drop to -1 for a short period, the tortoise would not freeze immediately. That is what the insulation is for... as it CLEARLY STATES (again) this slows down the rate of heat exchange, buying some time. The damage only starts once ice crystals begin to form. Not before.

It is also clearly stated that the ideal target temperature for maintenance in such a situation is circa 5C. Not 2. Not 3. Not 4, and not 6 or 7.

"If sustained low or high temperatures are noted, temporarily move the tortoises into a more suitable place until temperatures stabilize to a satisfactory level again. Today, some excellent electronic thermometers are available with built-in alarms if the temperature goes outside pre-set points. These are truly excellent, and can make a major contribution to hibernation safety. An ideal temperature for hibernation is 5 °C, or 40 °F. At this temperature tortoises remain safely asleep, but are in no danger of freezing"

I would suggest that most people who read this completely understand what it means..........it means if you do hibernate like this, use a very well insulated double box, and try to keep it at 5C. If the temperature is likely to drop below 0 MOVE IT.
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Re: Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

Postby Matt » Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:30 pm

"The above refers to CRITICAL POINTS in the environment of an insulated hibernation box. Accurately so."

Sorry it took me a while but I now understand your temperatures Andy, :roll: I was thinking with my modern head full of thermometers with probes on cables or wireless transmitters, it never even crossed my mind that in this day and age the actual temperature in side the box would not be getting monitored.
 But I see now that you were only saying those temperatures for the outside of the box or the shed, so they make so much more sense now. :idea: Of course most modern thermometers would give both the inside and outside temperatures at the same time. 

As you implied this article is 25 years old now, back when monitoring the shed/garage temperature may have been the only easy option, wouldn't it be better to now recommend a cheap (less than £10) thermometer be placed in with the tortoise, (they have been around for many years now) after all you recommend us all to have infra-red thermometers now they are a lot cheaper. (good advice by the way, love mine :D )

You also said   "It is also clearly stated that the ideal target temperature for maintenance in such a situation is circa 5C.  Not 2. Not 3. Not 4, and not 6 or 7."

I've had quite enough experience of box hibernating (it was hell and we both hated it) and I have to point out that in my opinion it is totally impossible to keep a tortoise at 5 °C inside an insulated box, let alone try and keep the environment surrounding that box at 5 °C. (unless it is cold and you use heaters)

Also the temperature you recommended of 5 °C, you used the latin word "Circa" before it, so I can only presume you would allow the temperature to stray to 4 or 6 °C for box hibernation ?

You also clearly state on another article that you are happy with a temperature between 3-5 degree Celsius for Refrigerator hibernation "precisely the ideal range for chelonian hibernation" ?

If anyone is interested my girl was hibernated in her fridge controlled by digital controller (not at all complicated to set up) at just below 6 degrees, taken with a Fluke 62 mini IR. That's her constant temperature not the fridge and she lost less than 2% in weight and was eating within 30 hours, which is an all time record for her. 

Anyway I'm glad I finally understand your critical temperatures Andy. Sorry it took me a while to understand the method you were using to monitor the tortoises hibernation temperature. 

You may want to add the word BOX after tortoise in the quote below from your article.

"Under no circumstances whatsoever should a hibernating tortoise be subjected to prolonged exposure to temperatures higher or lower than these."
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Re: Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

Postby Tortoise Trust » Wed Apr 13, 2011 6:32 am

Do not assume that all, or anything remotely like, MOST keepers use thermometers. They don't. Most use NONE AT ALL. Still. Even now.

The keepers on here are some of the best informed out there. They use tortoise tables, UV lamps, all kinds of thermometers and humidity meters....

THEY ARE NOT TYPICAL.

We have a lot of stuff aimed at those kind of keepers... but... they are a minority. The majority still:

* Use no thermometers
* Hibernate in sheds
* Have no UV lighting
* Do not even know what a tortoise table is
* Feed lettuce and tomato (not the tinned variety)
* Have grassy pens on lawns

These are the people who's tortoises are being frozen. It is difficult to get them to change to even use decent double insulation and a basic thermometer... or to move the animals. Getting them to adopt 'fridges and frost prevention measures is a nightmare.... "He's been fine these 30 years without all that fuss"... heard it hundreds of times.

My view on thermometers next to the tortoise is that by the time it gets too low it is likely already too late. That's why for these kind of keepers, the external option is safer, because it has a built-in time lag.

We are in daily contact with the general public, and it is positively scary....

Just ask Julie about some of the stuff we hear.

If you start
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Re: Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

Postby Matt » Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:13 pm

I can well believe that the general public are "positively scary". Luckily for my tortoise my Mother and I had some common sense between us.
I can only offer advice from my own experience. I didn't have any knowledge of the TT and yet I was using at least a couple of cheap in/out digital thermometers back when I was box hibernating. (quite a few years ago now) A weed diet no pellets and plenty of natural Sun. 

Personally I found knowing the internal box temperature, as well as knowing the shed/garage temperature invaluable, as I know others do.
The temperature in the box would go down very very slowly, it never got "too low" as I was watching both. 
In fact cold temperatures in the shed were not that much of a problem for me,  it was when the wind changed and came from the north that the internal box temperature would start to drop quicker and I would have problems. (it didn't even have to be frosty) 
As I said before you cannot keep a tortoise or it's direct environment at exactly 5 degrees as you have recommended. I personally would recommend the tortoise is kept at "around" 5°C with a minimum low of 3°C for short periods and safety.
I have never actually assumed that all keepers have thermometers, but I would certainly tell them to go out and buy one, or two, or even three. (some listed below) If they have a TV I would tell them to watch the weather forecast every night as well. 
Obviously your method will work and I understand your reasons, but I personally think set temperatures for the tortoise in side a well insulated box while keeping an eye on the weather & shed temperature is better.
 This does not mean the keeper has to ignore the actual temperature of the shed, it will just help them understand when their tortoise is more at risk. 

This is just my slightly different opinion Andy, we are actually on the same side. (which is don't box hibernate in a shed in the first place)

http://www.surreypetsupplies.co.uk/home.php?mobile=N  have a dual thermometer for £5.29 ex P&P.

http://www.kimbosreptileworld.co.uk/the ... -p-31.html have a dual thermometer for £7.95 ex P&P.

Fortex have One for £4.78 or two for £8.50 including P&P to the UK. 
http://www.forttex.com/index.php?main_p ... ucts_id=53 
This one is very simple and will just measure the temperature at its one probe though. 
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Re: Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

Postby Julie » Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:34 pm

I can confirm that after a call from a very experienced vet, a Tortoise had been so severley frozen that the owner could have used a chisel on it. That is not an exaggeration. I am currently waiting on news from the vet regarding 3 Tortoises that have been severley frost damaged from being hibernated in a shed. Long rehabilitation ahead for these Tortoises, and one that may not recover due to the organ damage affecting the kidneys and Liver. It really turns my stomach at the thought of the damage caused. One Tortoise arrived with Neurological damage, so severe that the Tortoise had lost control of head movement, it couldnt keep its head in one place, it was moving in all directions. I could go on as far as to say that a Liver biopsy will be carried out to see if the damage is repairable. We all need to be reaching as many people as possible regarding safe hibernation. I contacted our local newspaper to ask for an article to go out on warning keepers of freezing temperatures, and to take their Tortoise to a good vet, unfortunately, i havent heard anything back. I wonder how many Tortoises have actually died through the temps of last winter, and how many could have survived if treatment had been sought sooner rather than later.
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Re: Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

Postby Matt » Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:49 pm

That's awful Julie, :(

The best thing is for people to stop hibernating tortoises in sheds, by being told of safer better ways. 
Do you think it would be a good idea if fridge hibernation was mentioned in the main TT  "Safer Hibernation and Your Tortoise" article (I see that many thousands of copies have been given out in the past)

 I was box hibernating, but only because I didn't know about the fridge method. I should think there are many people out there like me that would happily change if they found out this was possible.
Just adding "Please see TT web site for further details regarding "The Fridge Method of Hibernation" might help save a few tortoises. If I had seen this I would of been straight on the web and reading the articles.
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Re: Frost damaged tortoises this winter - YOU can help

Postby Claris » Wed Apr 13, 2011 4:00 pm

Andy, Julie, is there anything we can do to reduce this horrible suffering and needless loss of life before next autumn and winter? I agree, we need to reach people who perhaps don't have access to the internet, or wouldn't even consider that the hibernation method they've used for decades is not safe.

I'm happy to print off and distribute the 'Safer Hibernation' guide to vets, petshops, reptile centres etc in my area and am wondering if there's a better method than me copying and pasting into Word (it is 20 pages of A4). Were the Hibernation Guides previously distributed in a similar format to the free A5 size "Taking care of pet tortoises"? I had quite a supply of these and they went down well with shops and friends of friends who were considering buying a tortoise. I'm just wondering if there is a stock of the hibernation guides anywhere, or whether members could do some fund raising, specifically to help with printing costs? I would be happy to help with delivery / posting them out. Perhaps this, along with a nationwide press release with shocking facts and figures, may help some tortoises and their owners that have managed to survive last winter, survive winters in the future.

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