Graeca Care Sheet
These Tortoises are Mediterranean and DO Hibernate.
This tortoise comes from semi-arid scrub and the Mediterranean forest right up to the edge of semi-dessert. The Graeca Graeca comes from the Morocco and North Africa. This care sheet is just for them. The Libyan Graeca and the Tunisian Graeca have slightly different husbandry.
Graeca's are very active tortoises. The males need to be kept separate from the females or another male as they can get very aggressive, and if with a female he will keep worrying her and will probably damage her or cause infection of the tail / cloaca. You must also be sure that any fencing is high enough to keep them in and also be aware that they can dig to try and escape.
The male Graeca has a long tail that goes to one side, where the female has a short tail. You may not be able to sex them for the first 4 years.
Size and Age
Graeca Graeca Tortoises are medium to large sized tortoises. It seems that they can live well over 100yrs of age. You need to be prepared for this as you may need to pass your tortoise down the generations or you may need to find a new home eventually. A tortoise organization may be the best contact.
This should be as large as possible and needs to be able to provide a warm area for them for most of the year apart from hibernation. A good size is 1.5metres x 2.5metres fr an adult. They will stay indoors quite a lot so this has to be a suitable size and the temperatures must be right. To get this right you will probably have to Heat bulbs in part of the shed, this provides D3. This gives your tortoise a wide range of different temperatures. They need to have a good strong bright light with the correct temperatures to encourage them to feed well. The indoor temperature should have a gradient from 20-30C for approx 12hrs per day. The night temperatures must not fall below 15C but you must have the spot lights on, this is where the heaters can be set to come on if the temperatures drop and go off if the temperatures rise too much.
These tortoises need an area that is safe and enclosed, a good size of 5metres x 9metres is recommended. These tortoises must have as much room as possible as they need to exercise to keep their muscles strong. It must have a weedy area to graze and a dry sandy area 50/50 Loam/play pit sand to give them all options. It must be well drained and preferably in the sun, a south facing garden is perfect. They also need safe shrubs that they can hide under if it gets too hot. Pampass Grasses are very good. Hard area such as slabs will help to keep their nails the correct length. This area must be free of pesticides and weed killer etc. as they will harm and may kill your tortoise.
This should be around your tortoise area making it safe and escape proof. It must be a solid fence and about 2 metres high so that people outside of the garden cannot see your tortoise. If you need to fence off part of your garden for your tortoise then you could do this with 40cms strong fencing. You might be able to get this made from a local fencing company and it works. These tortoises are clever tortoises that will dig out if given a chance, so please make sure that they are safe and secure.
Graecas like all tortoises, must have water available to drink. You must be able to keep the water clean and changed every day for them, they will use it regularly. You can use a sunken plant pot saucer, which you can keep clean and is safe for them to get in and out off, but make sure it is not a deep one. These tortoises cannot swim.
A natural diet of foods needs to be provided which is high in fibre, low grain, low protein and low carbohydrate. These foods, being more natural, take a longer time to digest which is much better for them. Always feed foods that you have put into the area on a hard surface with their additives. 75% of their diet should be weeds and wild flowers. DO NOT give your tortoise the commercially dried foods, they do not get these in the wild and feeding your tortoise these will cause severe health problems.
We do recommend Pre Alpin foods that are just dried grasses and weeds but they must be an addition to a diet so that the diet is varied.
Graecas must have calcium so this needs to be provided on all their food, they need this to grow and to keep their bones strong. Sprinkle Calcium Carbonate on all of their foods every day and also a pinch of Nutrobal twice a week. You can also put cuttlefish into their area, some tortoises will eat at it and some will not. This also will help keep their beaks trimmed.
Soak your tortoise each week in warm water making sure that it can get its head out of the water, so that it will not drown. Then take this opportunity to wash the carapace and plastron with antibacterial hand wash, and also to check your tortoise to make sure that everything is okay. The limbs and face should be clean and with no cuts etc, eyes should be dark and shiny, nose clean and dry, mouth clean and pink with no signs of mouth rot. Scutes should not be loose and the plastron and carapace should have no damage. Weigh your tortoise and keep records of these as they can be very useful.
Injuries that can happen
- Dogs love to chew tortoises because they are a Calcium Bone, so NEVER leave them together alone.
- Lawn mowers and vehicles can cause serious damage.
- Other tortoises can get aggressive causing damage to bites / knocks.
- Children can often drop tortoises and this will damage / kill them.
- Sharp objects left lying around can injure them or they may get stuck in them.
Bad things that can cause problems
- Lack of exercise leads to muscular problems and must be avoided.
- Kitchen food and fruit will cause diarrhoea and digestive problems. Instead of the proper diet taking 2-3 weeks to digest, these foods can take only 1 week to digest which is much too fast and bad for them.
- NO Cat or Dog food as this it too high in protein and as well as being bad for them it will also lead to shell deformities, obesity and kidney disease.
- High humidity, dampness and cold conditions should be avoided to prevent RNS.
- Never add one species with another species as they all need different husbandry and can pass on different viruses etc.
- Never put another tortoise with yours without quarantining for 18 months.
- Fruit is not eaten in large amounts in the wild and it raises the lactic acid levels, which causes internal parasites.
- Avoid any foods that contain Oxalic Acid as this binds the calcium so that it cannot be used by the body eg. peas and beans.
- Graecas are prone to pyramiding so you need to get the husbandry, feeding and additives right.
- Avoid Brassicas as they contain Oxalic Acid and can cause goitre problems.
- Do not allow your tortoise to have a vitamin injection especially before hibernation, they should not need it if their husbandry is correct.
- Garden Ponds must be covered as these tortoises cannot swim and they will drown.
- Do NOT drill a hole through their shell, this will cause extreme pain and or / infection.
Graecas mature at approx 15yrs of age in the wild, but they may need to be 6-8yrs old in captivity. They can have approx 2-12eggs per clutch and they may have 2 clutches per year. They will also need to have a laying area of mixed 50/50 Loam/pla ypit sand in a warm area, they will dig to about 7-9cms. You really need to do a lot of research before going down this avenue, and to get it right.
Juveniles or young Graecas need special treatment as they will eat if given the chance, which is not correct. They also should not be kept in a vivarium after 12 months of age. They should be reared in a tortoise table which has the basking lamp etc. To find out more about bringing up young Graecas then please contact us.
A simple injury can be treated with diluted betadine (from the chemist) and cleaned. Cover with a plaster and keep clean. If the injury is bad then you need to go to a tortoise vet.
If you suspect that your tortoise is ill in any way, then you must get it to a tortoise vet immediately.
These tortoises must hibernate and the best way to learn this is to come to our hibernation demonstrations and talk which we do at our information day in September. The best way to hibernate is the fridge method as you can control this better than any of the other methods. We would not recommend hibernating a tortoise for the first year of ownership and definitely not if the tortoise has been or is ill.
A list of good foods is on the feeding page, and there is also a list of poisonous plants so that you can check what you have in your garden.