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Namaqualand Speckled Padloper (Homopus s. signatus) – Victor Loehr
The Namaqualand Speckled Padloper (Homopus s. signatus) is successfully kept and bred in a studbook supervised by the Homopus Research Foundation, in enclosures measuring approximately 1 m2 for three to four adult specimens. Males have been reported to show aggression amongst each other, but in some cases they did not. Regardless, it is recommended not to keep multiple males in breeding groups, as this would obscure genetic parent-offspring relationships. Males and females can be housed together year-round. Terraria of keepers functioning within the studbook for the species have always been decorated to imitate the natural habitat of the tortoises, with a soil consisting of fine gravel or course sand, wood stumps and (real or artificial) rocks, and sometimes (live or artificial) plants. It is essential that multiple hiding places are present, in which the tortoises can retreat. The animals show a preference for hiding places with a height of slightly over tortoise shell height, between rocks. The soil layer has to be at least 10 cm at one site, to allow nesting by females. Enclosures need to be sprayed from time to time, preferably more often in winter (for instance twice or three times weekly) than in summer (for instance once weekly very lightly), to simulate the natural climatic cycle.
Juveniles in the studbook are being kept successfully in more simple enclosures, starting at approximately 0.15 m2 for two to three hatchlings. These enclosures are decorated with the same soil substrate as the adult enclosures and a (natural or artificial) hiding place. Hatchlings can be kept on newspaper substrate for the first week. Small and simple enclosures allow better observation and therefore increase the chance of survival of the tortoises. Juvenile tortoises need to be sprayed more frequently than adults. A frequency of every other day for the first year, at least twice weekly for the second, and thereafter as for the adult tortoises is recommended. Soaking the hatchlings several times weekly can help to prevent dehydration.
The enclosures described here are being illuminated by means of tube lights and (halogen or standard) light bulbs. Illumination may provide UV radiation, but this is not essential (in the latter case sufficient vitamin D has to be provided in the diet). Since the light intensity in the natural distribution range is high, there appears to be no maximum light intensity in captivity. It is recommended to install at least one tube light for a minimum light intensity, or to provide natural daylight. The photoperiod needs to be adjusted to the natural distribution range. This means 13-14 hours in summer and 9-10 hours in winter, with a gradual shift between these two limits. Climatic cycle can be adjusted to northern or southern hemisphere.
The light bulbs heat the enclosures described here, sometimes in combination with soil heating. The day temperatures need to fluctuate with the season, for instance 30-35°C in summer and 25-30°C in winter. Night temperature always needs to be lower than day temperature. There is no minimum night temperature, as long as the temperature remains above 0°C. The day temperature under a (standard or halogen) spot light needs to be higher, for instance 40°C or higher, to allow basking. This spot may be switched off for some time during winter.
The adult tortoises in the studbook are mostly being fed with green plant material (Taraxacum, Plantago, endive, chicory, et cetera), supplemented with a fiber-rich component such as chopped hay several times weekly at some locations. Feeding can be done every other day. Fruit maybe offered occasionally (for instance once weekly) in small quantities, but this is not recommended. When the tortoises are inactive during periods of high temperatures in summer or low temperatures in winter, frequency of feeding may be reduced, although it is recommended to continue to offer food as some tortoises will become active now and then.
Juveniles need to be fed more frequently, hatchlings every day. This can be reduced to six times weekly when the tortoises are one year old and every other day after for instance two years.
It is recommended to provide drinking water at all times, as the tortoises drink infrequently.
The food of tortoises in the studbook is supplemented with a commercial calcium/vitamin additive at all feedings.
Situation in the wild and in captivity
Homopus s. signatus is rare in captivity, but not endangered in the wild. However, the natural distribution range is small and human pressure is increasing for various reasons. Therefore it is of importance to gather life-history information on the species as soon as possible (both in the wild and in captivity), allowing formulation of wildlife management plans if necessary. The majority of the captive population of this species is registered in the studbook under supervision of the Homopus Research Foundation.
A detailed bibliography can be found at http://www.homopus.org , literature section.
This caresheet was drawn up in April 2002. Husbandry and caring methods are dynamic and therefore it is recommended to check http://www.homopus.org for updates.
Care sheet used with permission - www.chelonia.org - World Chelonian Trust
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