All turtles should be able to express normal behaviours. A normal behaviour is the way an animal acts in its natural environment. Enough space, proper shelter and housing as well as company of the animals’ own kind, encourages the expression of normal behaviours.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that your animal has five groups of welfare needs. These are five groups of things that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the Five Freedoms.
Under the Animal Welfare Act all animal guardians (owners) need to provide these five groups of things for their animals. One of these Five Freedoms is: Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your turtle receives the exercise and enrichment they need to be free to express their normal behaviour.
Despite their slow pace, turtles still require a lot of exercise and will not be content if they do not have enough room to do so. Having adequate water and land space for them to swim in, explore, and express their normal behaviour is essential. Turtles are active and curious animals so they need to be able to move around and explore.
For female turtles, laying eggs can be a natural behaviour. Not only will they need the proper environment to do so, but they will also need an experienced turtle guardian to help with this process. It’s important to consult your reptile veterinarian in this case.
Hibernating can be another natural turtle behaviour for outdoor turtles. It is important to know if your species of turtle is one that hibernates so that you’re able to ensure they do so safely and have the appropriate enclosure to allow for this. Be sure to consult your reptile veterinarian for advice.
An enriched turtle is a happy turtle! Enrichment allows for animals to express their normal, natural behaviours. Without enrichment, your turtle will get bored, lonely and most likely stressed which can lead to illness. There are plenty of things you can do to prevent these negative emotions.
Providing the above enrichment helps mimic the turtle’s natural habitat which will keep them happy and healthy.
If you’re using plastic plants instead of live plants, use plants that are one whole structure to avoid your turtle pulling them apart.
If you have an indoor and outdoor enclosure, it’s great enrichment for your turtle to spend warm summer days in the outdoor enclosure and helps them get their UVA/UVB. However, if they’re outside, turtles will need a place where they can escape from the sun as well. Be sure to bring them in before the sun goes down and keep them inside during the chilly months so they don’t get too cold.
Whatever the enrichment is that you provide for your turtle, you must first make sure that it is safe. Some food and plants can be toxic and different environments can have hazards. If you are unsure if something is safe or not, consult your reptile veterinarian beforehand.
Plants are great enrichment for turtles! However, it’s important to know what plants are safe for your specific turtle. Always make sure you talk to your reptile veterinarian about your species of turtle and what plants they can and cannot have.