Florida Iguana & Tortoise Breeders

How to handle shy tortoises

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Q: Anyone who has or has had a juvenile Aldabra who can tell me how long it takes for them to not be scared of everything?
Mine is constantly on the run and doesn't slow down until he finds food or his hiding place. Do they eventually grow out of this?


A:  Hi Julian each animal is an individual, yes they do eventually lose their shyness as they get older.

Females are typically shyer then males.

There is no exact time frame as to when they lose their shyness. However, they change dramatically at about 2 to 3 years or at about 12 inches

 

There are some techniques I have used that do help.

Also you have to be aware of her environment and what may be trigging her to take off

This then becomes a triggered reaction and is more difficult to treat every time it happens and takes longer to fix.

There are two types of shy animals:

#1 The Hiders the kind that see you and pull tight in their shells until you go away. (the most difficult to treat). 


#2 The Runners the kind that see you and take off a lot easier to treat.

First off shy Aldabars don’t like to be moved around, or messed with, this can happen if they are being moved in and out of their cage for Cleaning or hydrating or they me be moved around if kids get involved and fly them around the room (I am not saying you are doing this,  I am just adding this for completeness)

 

The Hiders: In my experience,  I tell people to remove substrates and put down Reptile carpet or indoor/Outdoor carpeting.
Also there are times its better to remove the hide boxes.

This is so they can’t hide all day under the substrate (both of these techniques are more for the first type)

 

The Runners: the second type this is usually a treat based approach. 

Here we are going to try to entice that tortoise with some kind of special treat, strawberry, watermelon banana, tomato or whatever her favorite food may be.

Here you have to take your time and get closer with each encounter, maybe just put the food down and stay close by inching so ever closer, maybe just leave your hand close to the treat, trying to work your way up to actually holding on to the treat.

 

The second approach for the runners is to get them familiar with being around you, this may actually involve more holding and more contact.

As I guide for the runners watch their heads, if they get too spooked and starting pulling in or locking themselves in their shells then you moved to fast for them.

 

Try also moving the runners around in different situations, maybe one where they are outside and have to run past you, at least they are getting exposed to you.
Sometimes in an indoor pen they keep running in circles but outside you may find they only run so far and then settle down and start exploring this may be a great opportunity to start the treat based approached.

 

The Third approach: Aldabras and Galops usually like to be scratched, rubbed and sprayed with water, I have seen the most severely affected animals tamed by this technique.

Try spraying them with water if they stand up you have them, then just keep repeating and star moving in for the rubbing and scratching.

Now some like just a mist,  some like it just on the back legs,  you will have to experiment to see what gets the best results.

 

Give it a try be patient, get back with me and let me know how it worked for you and what tricks you found worked best. 

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