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At The Tortoise Trust, we are committed to making a difference in the world by giving a voice to tortoises and turtles. Founded in 1984, our aim is to promote the welfare, conservation, and protection of these incredible creatures. Join us in our efforts to make a positive impact on their lives and upon the world around us.

Our mission

  • To provide the very best practical husbandry information available to keepers worldwide. 

  • To campaign for tortoise & turtle conservation worldwide.

  • To actively support conservation programs. 

  • To educate keepers and professionals in the correct husbandry and welfare of tortoises and turtles.

  • To carry out original research for the benefit of tortoises and turtles. None of our research ever harms animals. 

  • To promote the humane treatment of tortoises and turtles.

Wild Galapagos tortoise, Santa Cruz
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Our Work

There are many tortoise and turtle societies and clubs, but The Tortoise Trust is different. We have an enviable record of pioneering original research in this field, and of developing and publishing methods and information that have quite literally changed the way people keep chelonia throughout the world. From the early 1980's onwards, The Tortoise Trust has led the way in the field of tortoise and turtle husbandry. Our work on diet and disease prevention, on taxonomy, and on captive breeding technologies have had a tremendous impact - and to this day we continue to actively research even better methods of husbandry and ways to improve welfare. Here are just a few past examples of how The Tortoise Trust has constantly advanced chelonian knowledge over the years since we began:

  • In the 1980's dog food and other high protein foods were routinely advised for herbivorous tortoises. We were the very first organisation to thoroughly research this topic, and we published conclusive evidence in herpetological journals that it was highly damaging.

  • Hibernation was a hit-or-miss, life or death gamble for tens of thousands of tortoises throughout Europe annually. We published and distributed, free of charge, the world's first comprehensive guide to how to manage hibernation safely. Countless tortoises' lives have been saved as a result, and to date, over 90,000 print copies of this publication have been given away free to any owner who asks.  We now make an updated version free online. 

  • Around the same time, it became apparent that many tortoises were dying under mysterious circumstances from what appeared to be an epidemic disease. Again, we were the very first organisation in the world bring this to widespread notice, and we were the first to warn of the possibility of viral diseases in tortoises (subsequently proven true). We were also the very first to warn against mixing different species.

  • The Tortoise Trust developed, tested and publicised the entire concept of the now-popular 'Tortoise Table' method of indoor husbandry. The first published descriptions of this (and the first published use of the term) appeared in the 'Practical Encyclopedia of Keeping & Breeding Tortoises & Freshwater Turtles' in 1996, based upon Tortoise Trust original research. Now, the method is used worldwide. 

  • The classification of the Mediterranean Testudo group was seriously inadequate. We undertook extensive museum and field research which culminated in exploding the then-accepted '4-subspecies' myth and showed that in reality diversity was far greater than anyone had previously realised. This has had important implications for conservation and captive breeding. One outcome of this is that we described, and named, Tunisian tortoises as a separate species. This is now widely accepted. 

  • The Tortoise Trust  was a founding partner in efforts to save the highly endangered Egyptian Tortoise, Testudo kleinmanni, in Egypt. We provided funding and technical support to this important program.We have worked in both Egypt and Israel, and have collaborated on and funded important studies on their natural ecology and diet in collaboration with the Tisch Family Zoological Garden in Jerusalem.

  • Our dietary  and husbandry research has continued, and we have subsequently published original new material on how feeding fruit is damaging to arid habitat species, how to achieve perfect shell growth in hatchlings, and upon the importance of microclimates in captivity.

  • In 2002 we launched the world's first comprehensive online education and training program for keepers worldwide. A totally new, updated version of this course compatible with mobile devices is about to be relaunched! 

  • We  launched highly effective campaigns against supermarkets such that were directly  involved in cruelty to turtles and in the illegal exploitation of endangered species in China. We also warned about the potential for pandemic diseases arising from the unhygienic and inhumane conditions in wildlife markets. We were again proven right.

  • Our rehoming program has helped find thousands of tortoises new homes over the years with experienced keepers. It has a well deserved reputation for excellence and for placing the interests of the tortoise first.  This work continues. 

  • During 2007 we released new updates of several publications and highlighted the problems caused by dealers supplying tortoises with incorrect care information and unsuitable vivarium accommodation.

  • In 2008 we also highlighted the dangers of the sale of hemp and other unsuitable bedding materials to tortoise keepers,  and we also uncovered major problems with herpes-virus in imported tortoises. This resulted in the successful prosecution of several pet dealers for violations of animal welfare laws. 

  • In Spring 2009 we held a series of training workshops, and were involved in several large seizures and confiscations involving several hundred tortoises and turtles. Many required intensive veterinary care. This work continues. 

  • Over the summer of 2009 we conducted the most extensive tests of vivarium systems for tortoises ever conducted and highlighted the many failings of enclosed housing. This was instrumental in getting dangerous products withdrawn from the market and in developing advice to trading standards and animal welfare officers, hopefully reducing the casualties and suffering caused to thousands of tortoises as a result of improper housing. 

  • In early 2010 we relocated our main base and office to Southern Spain, which also gives us easy access to North Africa. We now have active research projects underway studying wild tortoise hibernation, diets, estivation, growth, microclimates and conservation stategies. The new data obtained will continue to allow us to provide the most accurate, up-to-date advice available by greatly improving our understanding of how these animals function in nature. 

  • In November 2010 we presented breakthrough research on shell deformity 'pyramiding' in tortoises, a topic that has perplexed breeders for decades. We are confident that this new work clears the way to vastly improve the heath and welfare of all captive chelonia.  At the same time we published new research into the critical role of very high fibre diets in tortoises. 

  • In 2012, we began to release some startling revelations on how heat lamps can affect health in tortoises, a subject that had been almost entirely ignored in the literature. Based upon several years research, and utilising state of the art thermographic imaging and computer analyses, we identified several areas of concern that affects every keeper of captive reptiles who employs artificial basking sources. In Spring 2012 we also published the very first recorded observations of true nocturnal behaviour in wild Testudo graeca -  the first such published observation to appear since the species was described in 1758.

  • In 2015 we published details of a totally new outdoor housing system that takes advantage of natural UV-B and WiRa (water-filtered-infrared-A) to reduce reliance upon artificial heat and light sources, even in northern climates, saving energy and providing near-natural basking conditions. We call this system the 'Climate Frame' terrarium. 

  • In 2019 we contributed the chapter on tortoise care and welfare to the prestigious professional reference book ‘Companion Animal Care and Welfare: The UFAW Companion Animal Handbook (UFAW Animal Welfare Series)’, which is used by animal care professionals all over the world. This included updated information based upon our own latest research. 

 

Over the years since we began, we have carried out extensive fieldwork and continue to develop new and improved methods to enhance the conservation and welfare of Chelonia. By subscribing to our newsletter and other publications, you help this work to continue. Thank you. 

Practical Care

Different species - Different needs

Diet and Environment

Learn from nature - The best teacher

Place pointer over the galleries above to explore just some of the species and habitats we have studied over the years. 

Activities & News

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Tortoise Trust Online Course

Current Research

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Reliable help and information

Social media and the internet in general is overflowing with 'experts' and advice. Sadly, much of it is incorrect, misleading and sometimes positively dangerous. The Tortoise Trust has 40 years of practical experience and a deserved reputation for quality advice that you can rely on. 

Direct intensive learning

The Tortoise Trust pioneered the world's very first online course in tortoise and turtle husbandry in 2001. A fully updated version with live interaction is returning soon! The course has been taken by private keepers, zoo staff, animal care professionals, veterinary professionals and wildlife rehabilitators worldwide. 

Learning from nature

Our core philosophy is that we need to learn from the natural world, and not to fall into the trap of believing that we are superior to it. Animals evolve over millennia to fit perfectly into specific environments. By studying these habitats intensively and obtaining accurate data from them we can discover what animals really need. 

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