Posthibernation anorexia

This is associated with the Mediterranean tortoises, because the climate in the UK is not suitable for these species and because the traditional methods of tortoise keeping are flawed. The majority of the wild-caught tortoises that are still alive in the UK are barely surviving and those that do survive

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90100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240 260 280 Carapace length In millimetres

Fig. 33.16 Growth of healthy Mediterranean tortoises using the Jackson ratio have darker shells that absorb heat more efficiently, which maintains the body temperature closer to its preferred range.

If during hibernation the temperature rises, the tortoise will stir and burn off valuable energy reserves. The byproduct of this is urea, which is stored in the kidneys in the form of uric acid or urates. If this continues, by the time the tortoise fully awakes from hibernation its energy stores are depleted. It fails to get the normal glucose boost that enables it to move, bask and find food. The increase in stored urate levels depresses the appetite, resulting in an anorexic tortoise. Normally the activity of basking, eating and drinking post-hibernation will rectify the energy imbalance and allow stored urates to be passed in the form of a creamy white paste, which is voided shortly after hibernation, usually after a bath and a long drink of water.

Post-hibernation anorexia can also be the result of a more gradual build-up of urates in the kidneys brought about by a combination of the tortoise suffering a series of poor summers and hibernation in which energy levels are slowly being reduced and urate levels increased. A healthy adult tortoise can be expected to lose about 1% of its body weight during each month of hibernation. A hatchling will lose much more and, if it loses more than 10%, must be brought out of hibernation.

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