Winter has come to Kerulos’ Tortoise and the Hare Sanctuary and the drought is over– at least for a time. The heat that held hostage the land and Animals of Oregon was banished by Fall rains. Everyone celebrated including the Humans – one man walked in downtown Ashland wearing nothing but a smile. The Wild Turkeys pulled on their feather turtlenecks to ready for the cold. Here are some updates on sanctuary residents.
The Desert Tortoises
When they first arrived from Nevada, the Tortoises received a thorough exam by our wonderful Dr. Ron Dickey. They were able to enjoy a full month of their new warm weather Domes Homes, before heading into brumation (read about reptile hibernation in the November 2014 issue of The Tutortoise).
Before tucking in for the Winter, each Tortoise was examined and weighed again, and placed in individual straw-filled boxes. Air temperature and humidity is monitored several times a day to stay within 40-55 F. Even though the Sanctuary is less than five miles as the Wild Turkey flies from the California border, air humidity is still higher than that found in the Tortoises native Southwest US. For this reason, we have installed a dehumidifier.
Sihu, the Little Flower Tortoise, is sitting out brumation this year and living in the studio where temperatures are warm and she can be treated with parasite medication, hydrated, and provided with nutritious, vitamin packed greens and other food. The medical exam revealed that most, if not all, of the Tortoises had significant parasite loads. However, since treatment takes six weeks and is contraindicated during brumation, the decision was made to wait for treatment until spring, with the exception of Sihu whose condition was significantly under par.
In her previous life, Sihu lost her right arm and sustained severe shell trauma as a result of a dog attack. She now receives direct full spectrum light several hours a day and exercise. She is administered vitamins, fresh greens, and medication including an antibiotic as blood work revealed she had an infection. But, no matter what, Sihu is brave, loving, patient with an enormous zest for life. Her personal carers, Trisha Totze-Thompstone and Maggie Shreve loyally and with great love care for the mending Tortoise in her spa. As a result, she has gained weight and is much more active.
Four weeks ago, our magnificent Rafael, Coco’s brother, was beset with a very serious condition – liver torsion. At first this was not suspected, but blood work and ultrasound diagnosed it as such. Researchers and clinicians now are beginning to consider that the condition may occur more frequently than previously thought. Usually, liver torsion is diagnosed in autopsy. Surgery is typically recommended, although medical treatment also used. Because Rafe was very fragile from a related anemia, we decided to treat him non-surgically so he could stabilize.
Day by day, Rafe has turned a corner! We have watched him breathlessly. Everyone is amazed at his recovery. To minimize movement, he is not allowed out of his night corral and receives a medicinal regimen twice a day. His appetite has resumed and he is in good form, enjoying fresh dandelions, collard greens, Italian parsley, Italian kale, blackberry leaves, and apple leaves and branches along with the staple of meadow hay and Bene pellets from Oxbow. Blood work and a second ultrasound this past week show that he is coming back to normal. However, our beloved Rafe is not yet “out of the woods,” so we remain ever vigilant.
The ordeal has been upsetting for Coco, Rafe’s brother. Both were rescued from a backyard Rabbit “meat” business. Coco faithfully accompanies his brother on the hour long trips to the doctor and stays with him in hospital. Coco was exhausted from his care giving so we were very watchful for him as well. Sophia Bess and roseMarie hop over to lay next to Rafe outside his corral to keep him company. We are now designing a survey in conjunction with the House Rabbit Society and a Tufts research veterinarian to develop a database to contribute to efforts for better understanding the causality, diagnosis, and treatment of liver torsion.
In the meantime, we are creating a new garden to grow fresh greens for the Tortoises and Rabbits and re-planting trees and bushes laid low by the Rabbits in the Rabbitat Habitat.The Tortoise Dome Homes have been seeded with native grass so that there will be a good welcoming crop in the Spring! We are searching for a greenhouse so that we can provide greens year round.
Thank you all for your contributions to help make the Tortoises feel at home.