All turtles deserve to be happy. Loving your turtle and learning to understand their needs will help you identify the things you must do to give them positive experiences and prevent them from feeling worried, upset, frightened and stressed.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Mental Wellbeing. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your turtle has positive experiences and is receiving the love, understanding and companionship they need for their mental wellbeing.
Turtles have unique needs and requirements, with each breed being different. Before you make the commitment to be a turtle guardian - you need to find out and learn as much as you can about what turtles need to be healthy and happy and make sure that you have the time and money to meet these needs. Turtles deserve love, care, understanding, and respect from their guardians. When they are provided with these things, their fear and distress lessen.
In order to ensure everything in your turtle’s enclosure will be working properly, it’s a good idea to set it up at least 2 weeks before they will arrive home.
When you bring the turtle home, place the transport container onto the basking platform and let your turtle come out in their own time. If you force a turtle out or expose them to the open area too quickly, it can cause them a great deal of stress. It’s also important to leave the lights off until the following day to help them adjust.
The best way to pick up at turtle is using both hands, one on each side of their shell in the middle of their body. As a general rule, turtles should not be handled more than is necessary. They are the kind of companion animal that enjoy being looked at, but not being touched. Turtles can be quite timid, especially when everything is brand new to them.
When you first bring your turtle home, it’s best not to handle them for about 3 weeks – this will help them settle into their new environment. Even after this point, turtles will prefer limited interactions. Each turtle has a different personality, just like people. Get to know your turtle and respect what they like and do not like.
As discussed in the turtle Environment section, turtles are private animals that need places to hide away and feel safe. Providing a structure like a dark cave is a must. When your turtle is in the cave, that’s a clear sign that they are wanting to be left alone. Respect your turtle by giving them that space and do not disturb them.
In nature, turtles are basically solitary animals. Groups of turtles may live in the same place, because the conditions are good for them, but they aren’t really “sociable” with each other.
If you and your family decide that you would like your turtle to have a friend, you need to be make sure that they are paired appropriately. For example, males can be very territorial and are therefore best housed alone. Turtle fights can lead to very serious injuries.
Additionally, each turtle will need their own basking area and a sufficient amount of food. Turtles need to feel like they are not fighting for their meals, otherwise to can become aggressive towards each other. Sometimes a tank mate can cause more stress than companionship so it’s important to know what’s best for your turtle.