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True or False

Nile crocodiles, terrapins, tortoises and turtles.

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True or False

Postby sanchez » Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:57 pm

I recently went on a bush course of sorts....was a total scam with no Big 5. But that's another story.

Point is this: the lead guide told us NEVER to pick up a tortoise during winter because they store fluids in a sac and they usually expel it when picked up...the tortoise then has a good chance of dehydrating and dying.

TRUE or FALSE?

Have never read this anywhere before so I am curious?

Oh, and obviously it only applies to wild tortoises, I'm sure your pet will be able to source some water :)
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Re: True or False

Postby Westley Price » Thu Dec 08, 2011 2:24 pm

I'm not sure if it's true, but I never pick up a wild tortoise as I also believe this.

Fact: most tortoises do urinate a large amount when molested as a defense.

Whether this water loss is enough to totally dehydrate them is the question.

I think so, especially for the Namaqualand/Karoo tortoises.
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Re: True or False

Postby Smeegle » Thu Dec 08, 2011 2:34 pm

I think it is true.

As far as I know they can store almost half their body weight of water in their bladders, and because they empty their bladders as a defence mechanism when picked up, they will lose all that precious water.
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Re: True or False

Postby snake kid » Thu Dec 08, 2011 2:42 pm

I'm also going with true and here in Oudtshoorn there isn't allot of water around so they do dehydrate if they have to waste water urinating on you. Allot of people make the mistake of "helping" a tortoise cross the road by picking it up and carrying it over but this is a mistake. We are now teaching the people to just stand and wait and flag down approaching vehicles till to skillie has crossed the road at its own pace. It is time consuming but safer for the tortoise.
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Re: True or False

Postby vuduman » Thu Dec 08, 2011 4:36 pm

mmm.So if a tortoise in the wild urinates as a self defence in winter,it will die anyway ,ironically?Like a bee that dies after using it's stinger in self defence :P
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Re: True or False

Postby sanchez » Thu Dec 08, 2011 4:56 pm

Thanks guys, I think we all on the same page then.
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Re: True or False

Postby fredsmith » Fri Dec 09, 2011 8:14 am

I'm often on the road, being a rep who calls on the mines, I travel down many quieter roads, where reptiles are often found squashed.
I have seen people swerve to the OTHER side of the road to run a snake over, or any small animal for that matter. It is with this in mind that I have often "helped" a tortoise or chameleon to cross the road. They're both slow moving animals, so in my minds eye, I was doing them a favour and have always felt a sense of achievement so to speak in helping them.
I never ever for one second thought that I could be endangering it. Thanks for the "heads up".
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Re: True or False

Postby Rodwraylva » Fri Dec 09, 2011 6:58 pm

I do not think a tortoise urinating in self defense will die due to dehydration, the idea of the self defense mechanism is to keep creatures from eating it, so it will not kill it in my opinion. Take for example a jackal nibbling on a tortoise, the tortoise urinates to distract and confuse the jackal, does not seem logical to be fatal. With bees it is a different story, being a primitive "sting" user, I would say the body was not developed properly for stinging. In that point I concider wasps as more evolved, because they can sting multiple times without dying.

That is just my thought and not a proffessional opinion. So unless it is a rather new defensive mechanism, I would say they would be save doing so, because urine is, 1: bad tasting, 2: bad smelling, and 3: unexpected. Will it not have the same effect as a Common slugeater musking on someone when handled?

Hope we can come to a true statement with research proving it as a proven fact or false info to keep people from disturbing animals.
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Re: True or False

Postby Bushviper » Sat Dec 10, 2011 11:59 am

Tortoises do not always expel the fluids from their bodies so picking up a tortoise and removing it from the road is not such a risky decision. It is far safer to do this than putting yourself or the tortoise at risk of being run over. In summer they can replenish the fluids by drinking water so that is not a major factor. In winter when they dont have access to drinking water then it could become risky however it is not always a death sentence. Tortoises are hibernating in winter so they will not be crossing roads. Some do still bask in the sun however they rarely move far from the area where they will be spending the winter.
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Re: True or False

Postby Mehelya » Sat Dec 10, 2011 1:40 pm

BV, when I did my field guiding course, they also mentioned in the lectures that turning a tortoise over is not a good idea, as this could cause that "water store sac" to twist, and cause a blockage by twisting the "tube" closed, any truth in that?
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Re: True or False

Postby Bushviper » Sun Dec 11, 2011 10:06 am

Mehelya I seriously doubt that. Have you ever seen Angulate tortoises combat? The purpose is to put the opposing male on his back and then rush off and mate with the female. They tip each other over on a daily basis. Leopard tortoises also do this quite often.

It might be applicable to some species however I have my doubts. No harm in rather being careful.
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Re: True or False

Postby Rodwraylva » Sun Dec 11, 2011 5:46 pm

I have watched tortoises which where pushed over turn themself around once or twice. Quite interesting to see. Normaly turn them rightside up and watch thewm walk back to the nearest bush for cover.
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Re: True or False

Postby Will » Sat Dec 08, 2012 12:12 am

These things, the urinating and turning over are stressors, the tortoise can survive them, but for what purpose from a person fooling around with them, idel curiosity. The tortoise will likely survive, but why stress it out. The next day that jackal may come across it, and that next stress event, and no bladder to empty can very likely cause the death, see? You would be using it up, before it can restore itself or that water.

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Re: True or False

Postby lampie » Sat Dec 08, 2012 10:25 pm

I would say that they will not use up all their water if they know they would not be able to restore it for a few days or so. If they use all their water on you and "survive the attack" they can still die of dehydration because they used all their water.
It just doesn't make sense, because to stay alive after the "attack" they would need water, logicly they will not use all their water but keep some.

Just my 2c
(PS: I would still not pick one up as I might be wrong.)
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Re: True or False

Postby Will » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:30 am

Well, half way around the world in another desert with other desert dwelling tortoises, this is logical. The tortoise does not know about tomorrow, it does know about right now, and will seek to survive right now, and will deal with a water deficit while alive. The water is from the bladder, and is hardly ALL the water, it is the recycled water in excess of today's and maybe tomorrows need, even into next week's needs. They don't know they can or can not restore in the next few days, I would say tortoises react, they don't plan- at least not while under a predator's assault, tomorrow has no meaning in a tortoise mind.

So further still, even if they have three bladder units of 'leave me alone' why use any of them up, what purpose are you serving?.

When I did a field study in the Karoo, and handled torts, most dropped their bladder, how much, I could not say what propotion. I did bring a collapsible dog bowl made of canvas and after all messing about was done, I placed the tortoise in the bowl in a small puddle of fresh water, stepped away and watched. They all drank a considerable amount, gave me a gift of feces for later analysis, and then walked off in no rush. Some of them sat there for an hour.

Now I suppose they did not know they were going to get that water, yet dumped their bladder anyways.

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