Tortoises and terrapins belong to a group of animals called Chelonians (which also includes turtles).
Tortoises are land animals and can live to around 150 years old. Because of this they don’t make the ideal pets as they will outlive their owners. At Raystede we care for 21 tortoises who have been surrendered into our care for various reasons. We don’t rehome our tortoises or terrapins due to their long lifespans and specialist care needs.
The tortoises we have at Raystede are mainly Mediterranean species so would naturally live in a warmer, drier habitat. We have tried to mimic this environment as much as possible. Their enclosure features a large expanse of sand, complete with rockeries containing Mediterranean plants for them to forage on. They also have a large area of grass which they can graze on during the day. In the wild, tortoises would have a diet consisting of wild plants such as weeds and flowers. They use their sense of smell to determine if something is worth eating.
Water is extremely important for tortoises and they have several water trays dotted around their enclosure. This allows the tortoises to submerge their mouths and noses into. They also enjoy basking in the warm water on a sunny day.
The tortoises are free to roam throughout the enclosure throughout the day, and on warmer nights. They all have their favourite spots to sunbathe or to take a nap. Megan, our largest and oldest tortoise enjoys nestling in the grass at the foot of a rockery. If the weather becomes a bit too chilly for them they can return to their sheds or burrow in the sand as they would do in the wild.
During the winter months we hibernate our tortoises as they would do in the wild. They go into a deep sleep, only emerging to have a quick drink and go to the toilet every few days.
Terrapins live in freshwater, unlike turtles who live in saltwater.
They also have long lives and can grow to be very large and snappy, because of this they make very unsuitable pets and Raystede do not rehome terrapins. They need a large pond to swim in, with somewhere warm on dry land to bask.
They have a mainly fish-based diet with some vegetable matter. At Raystede we feed them on mackerel, tuna, prawns, squid, herring, sardines, and salad.
You can watch our terrapins live during the summer months when they are in their outdoor pond enclosure, our “Terra-Cam” feeds a live video to a screen outside the enclosure so you can watch them going about their business. During the winter months the terrapins are moved into our indoor pools to keep warm. They are kept in large, heated pools with filtered water to keep them clean.
Terrapin ponds need to be kept clean to keep the terrapins healthy, if they aren’t cleaned regularly dangerous bacteria can grow causing health problems. The water also needs to be heated to keep it warm to ensure the terrapins stay active. Terrapins aren’t native to the UK and are naturally used to much warmer ambient temperatures.