Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a list of my top Frequently Asked Questions.

If you don't find your answer here send me a message
1Why do you stress research so much? Can’t I just do what you do? Can’t I just follow a care sheet for the next 50 years?
Owning and captive keeping of any turtle/tortoise is a challenge. These reptiles are exotic pets and require specialty care. Because they have not been domesticated very long there is very little long-term care experience and research available. For example, it was acceptable in the 60s to drill a hole in their shell and tether them with a rope or chain. We now know that mutilating the shell is both painful, harmful and an inhumane method of keeping a turtle/tortoise. Methods, equipment and knowledge are always changing. Keeping up on the research and continuing to learn will ensure the care you provide continues to evolve so that your turtle/tortoise will live a long, healthy life.
2Do you use supplements?
Northwest Tortoise (NWT) uses supplements. Along with a correct diet, supplements can be very beneficial. You are encouraged to research the supplements on the market and choose what you think is best for your turtle/tortoise. It’s recommended, no matter what species or age, to have a cuttlebone available for them to munch on.
3How can Northwest Tortoise be a rescue and breed tortoises?
NWT did not start out as a rescue (read the story of NWT About Northwest Tortoise) However, after experiencing the retail reptile industry first hand, it became very apparent that the need for a dedicated rescue in the Northwest was desperately needed. Unfortunately there are many non-ethical breeders and suppliers that are not concerned with anything but the bottom line. This method creates a carefree attitude about pets. Often the term ‘throw-away’ pet is used to describe a quick turnaround from investment to profit. Two species that are suffering because of the ‘throw-away’ pet mentality are the Sulcata and the Red-Eared Slider. Both of these species are over-crowding rescues (Read about it here).

NWT allows breeding very sparingly. In 2016, 7 turtle/tortoises were hatched. No species overcrowding rescues are bred or will ever be bred. When NWT decides to hatch eggs, the intention and future planning are to care for the hatchlings their entire lives, if necessary. If a qualified and dedicated hobbyist is approved to purchase, the turtle/tortoise will be sold and the proceeds go directly to funding NWT.

NWT does not supply retail stores, flippers or wholesalers.
4Should I get a tortoise?
That’s a tough question and the answer is different for each person. As usual, research the species out there. Think about the size you can accommodate now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now, etc. Think about where you’ll be in 10 years. Will you have a job where you travel all the time? Will someone be able to take care of the tortoise?

Deciding to get a tortoise should be a 50+ year planning exercise. If you truly want one, you’ll be able to see how it would fit into your life in future years and you will make it a priority to do so.
5Why don’t you breed Sulcatas?
Sulcatas are a fascinating and fun tortoise, but they are not for the average keeper. Their size, destructive digging and territorial behavior make them a difficult tortoise to keep over time. Almost all Sulcatas that arrive at NWT come with the same explanations for surrender: I had no idea they were so destructive. It’s destroying my yard. It keeps escaping. It knocks over everything and plows through everything.

If you choose to purchase a Sulcata, do A LOT of research. Know exactly what you are buying and understand the challenges you’ll have to accommodate as it gets bigger and sexually mature. Check out the Sulcata challenge links here and here to get you started. If you decide to purchase a Sulcata please consider adopting one from a rescue.
6Why should I buy from you verses a retail outlet?
NWT only deals with captive-bred tortoises. NWT does not import tortoises from the wild. Regardless of its legality, NWT believes it’s unethical for the pet trade to import tortoises from the wild. The Russian tortoise is a perfect example of the retail pet trade. The tortoise is taken from its natural environment (wild caught) and sent to the pet trade. Most tortoises captured in this method don’t survive more than two years. The exotic looking Pancake Tortoise is another example of mass wild-caught gathering and sending to the U.S. and other countries for the pet trade.
7If you are a non-profit, why are you soliciting for donations?
Somehow a myth exists that non-profits don’t need money to run. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Non-profits have to purchase everything they need to care for the animals they take in. While some retail places may give a price break to non-profits, rarely do any of them give their products or services away. Money is absolutely needed to keep a non-profit running. Income that is brought in from adoption fees or the occasional captive-bred sale goes directly back into the non-profit.
8Do you make any money?
No. I do not take a salary or any money from NWT. All monies earned are returned to the non-profit to continue operating.
9Will you help me find a home for my turtle/tortoise?
Helping someone find a home for their turtle/tortoise without taking ownership is essentially becoming a broker or middle person. NWT requires full surrender of the animal. Additionally, NWT will not refer non-vetted applicants to people wanting to rehome their turtle/tortoise. NWT takes rescue and rehoming very seriously and will not use either of these methods to pass turtles/tortoises from owner to owner. The goal is to rehome once and never again.
10Do you foster turtle/tortoises?
No. NWT requires full ownership surrender.
11Can I be a foster?
At this time NWT does not foster out turtles/tortoises. Currently, NWT is unable to spend the time required to interact find, vett and keep up with fosters is not available. This may change in the future.
12Do you negotiate on prices?
No. NWT believes living beings are not something to negotiate or barter like a car. The goal of bartering is to get more for your money. This doesn’t apply to living things. Living things are a life-long commitment, not a deal to be made. Additionally, the prices NWT charges are well below the market price.
13Does my tortoise need a buddy or friend? Isn’t he lonely?
No. No. No. And no. I cannot stress this enough. Turtles/tortoises do not need buddies or friends. They are solitary animals. They don’t want or need friends. In the wild they are nomadic and come together only to mate or vie for a mate.

“But my friend has x, y, and z together and they are fine.” I hear this all the time and my answer is always the same – just wait, problems will arise and they do. Recently I took in multiple tortoises being kept together for 20+ years and the bullying was rampant. The keeper did not recognize the subtle signs and the weaker tortoises suffered for it.

General guidelines:
Young turtles/tortoises will tolerate others fairly well.

Sexual maturity: Males kept with males will start fighting regardless if a female is around.

Females: Females kept with females tend to fight less than males but they will fight. Sometimes females will live in harmony for years then one decides she doesn’t like the other. After a period of separation there may be peace again. I have never seen a period of separation work for males.

Male/female: This is the worst-case scenario. Males will pursue females to detrimental ends. The female MUST have break from the male. She must be kept primarily away from the male.

Bullying behavior is very common in keeping groups together. Unfortunately most inexperienced keepers cannot recognize bullying behavior, and thus, don’t believe an experienced keeper when the behavior is noted.

It’s highly recommend if you decide to ignore the advice given here or the advice by the experts and choose to house multiple turtle/tortoises together that you have an exit plan. An exit plan is an additional pen ready and waiting when fighting or bullying starts.
14Do you vend at reptile shows?
Reptile shows are a double-edged sword and Northwest Tortoise does participate in some around the northwest. On one hand NWT gets the message of correct care, responsible breeding and adoption out to many people. People can learn from the educational displays and information for free. NWT’s advice is always free and given with the goal of helping the owner properly take care of the turtle/tortoise.

On the other hand, by being a vendor (and paying the fees) NWT is supporting the for-profit reptile industry. Many of the institutions NWT rallies against are in attendance making lots of money in unethical ways.

It is the opinion of NWT that it is unethical to:
  • Sell to people under the age of 18 without parental permission.
  • Transport and/or sell just-out-of-egg hatchlings.
  • Sell to whomever hands over the money. I’ve seen countless transactions where not a word about care was spoken.
  • Sulcatas and water turtles that are overrunning rescues should not be sold.
  • All shows publish ‘only captive-bred animals are allowed for sale.’ This guideline is not enforced. Wild-caught and imported tortoises can be found at nearly every show.
  • Big vendors sell and animal to a person and refer to a non-profit for care guidelines. Thus allowing the vendor to sell more and non-profits make up for their negligence. NWT experiences this at every show.