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Horsefield tortoise Hilda is recovering well under specialist care at the ISPCA

27th March 2020

Hilda, a Horsefield tortoise, was surrendered to the ISPCA by her owner who felt that they were unable to care for her specialised needs.

A specialist veterinary surgeon who subsequently examined Hilda diagnosed her as suffering from metabolic bone disease caused by a lack of calcium in her diet combined with insufficient access to appropriate ultraviolet lighting. This condition can lead to softening of the bones and plastron (shell) and could have ultimately proved fatal.

Hilda has been under the specialist care of our Chief Inspector Conor Dowling while she has been recuperating.

“Hilda is doing really well and has been receiving adequate nutrition and suitable lighting. Tortoises need foods high in fibre, calcium and low in protein, fat, sugar, and carbohydrates” said Chief Inspector Dowling. “Hilda will need an experienced home with an understanding of the specialist requirements of these animals. She has had a difficult start and will need ongoing monitoring but, all going well, she could be around for another 70 years”.

Tortoises are cold blooded. They live on land, and unlike turtles, they are not swimmers. Tortoises love to bask in light. It is essential for their health for them to have a heat lamp with a basking spot at the correct temperature and a UV light suitable to their needs.  They particularly enjoy eating dandelions, and clover and, for special treats, they will enjoy salad greens, cucumber and grated carrots.

Conor added:  “The ISPCA urges the public to think carefully before considering taking on an exotic animal as a pet. This is due to their complex social and welfare needs, specific nutritional requirements, public health risks and also the potential impact on the environment if they escape. Some species can also live for more than 50 years and may grow to be much larger than anticipated. Exotic species can become invasive should they escape or be deliberately released and can have a negative impact on native species which is a real concern”.

The ISPCA believes that legislation needs to be urgently introduced in Ireland to restrict the type and species of exotic animals that can be kept as pets or kept in a domestic environment, based on their welfare needs (only those species with relatively simple welfare needs should be kept), risk to public health (e.g. dangerous species such as venomous snakes) and risk to the environment should they escape or be deliberately released. The ISPCA also believes that some animals such as primates (e.g. marmosets) should never be kept as pets due to their complex social needs. Ultimately, the ISPCA believes that there should be a list of species (Positive List) of species that can be kept, bred or sold based on the above criteria.

Hilda is now ready to find a forever home where she will be loved and cared for, for the rest of her life.  For more information about Hilda, email or give us a call on (043) 33 25035 (0)

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