Tortoises & Turtles

Roadside vendors

How many times have you seen someone standing by the side of the road holding up a sign that says “BABY TURTLES FOR SALE”?  Did you know that the roadside sale of turtles or any other animal is illegal in Arizona? 

Basic Care: Sulcata Tortoise

African spurred tortoises (Geochelone sulcata)

Commonly referred to as sulcatas, are a hearty tortoise from the deserts of Africa. The do extremely well locally given proper care.  They start off small and cute but grow to weights of over 75 pounds with exceptionally large individuals weighing more than 100 pounds. Please read the information below on how to properly care for these tortoises.

Basic Care: Russian Tortoise

Russian tortoises (Testudo horsefieldi) are wonderful little tortoises with big personalities.  Ranging in size from 5 to 8 inches long and weighing about a half pound to two and a half pounds (300 to 1500 gms), they can be kept outdoors in Arizona or can often do quite well with relatively modest indoor caging.


What is “pyramiding”?

Pyramiding is the excessive upward growth of the scutes (the individual segments that make up the tortoise’s carapace or shell) that results in each segment taking on a pyramid-like shape.

Mycoplasma & Runny Noses

Upper Respiratory Tract Disease, often abbreviated as URTD or URP, is a common condition in Sonoran desert tortoises.  "Upper respiratory tract disease" refers to an infection of the nose, nasal sinuses, and trachea (wind pipe)  It typically starts as a clear nasal discharge that may persist for weeks.  Sometimes the discharge dries around the nose and forms a white crust.  Some tortoises may have bubbles blow out their nose and som

Dog Bite Wounds in Turtles and Tortoises

A sad fact is that dogs and tortoises are not a predictable mix.  The family dog that has never hurt a fly often becomes overwhelmed with an irresistible urge to chew on the tortoise.  Even dogs that have lived peaceably with tortoises for years have these lapses in decorum.  Make sure that any interactions between your dog and your tortoise are closely supervised and make sure the tortoise is too large to be swallowed!  Be

Bladder Stones

Insights into Medical Management

Bladder stones cannot be dissolved medically like they often are in mammals.  Surgical removal is the only treatment.

Most tortoises recover with surgery even if the bladder stone has been present a long time.

Basic Care: Desert Tortoise

The desert tortoise is a threatened species throughout much of its range which includes both the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. Recently the desert tortoise was split into 2 separate species.The Agassiz's desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizi) lives in the Mojave deserts of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona west of the Colorado river. The Morofka's desert tortoise (Gopherus Morafkai) resides in the Sonoran deserts of Arizona east of the Colorado river and Mexico.  The 2 species can interbreed and many of the captive tortoises in the Phoenix area are hybrids, which can only be determined by genetic testing.

Wild desert tortoise populations are threatened by development and destruction of natural habitat. In the meantime, captive tortoises have the opposite problem and have become over-populated. Large numbers of tortoises now sit homeless in sanctuaries throughout the southwest US. Wildlife officials are unable to return these captive to the wild because many are hybrids and there is a high risk of exposing wild tortoises to any diseases carried by these pet tortoises.