The Nation



Temperature changes and turtle diets

Bugsy the turtle continues to enjoy his hot weather diet of beef even in the cooler weather

THE UNEXPECTED rains of the past weeks have brought destructive flooding, but along with the suffering has come one bit of welcome news. The weather is unusually cool.

It's quite a change from the hot season, when the heat affected everyone. Then, my cats and dog didn't have their usual energy, and even the turtle herd suffered.

The Burmese peacock turtle especially had difficulty adjusting to the hot weather. She refused to get into the water of her tub, and instead spent most of the day and night on her basking rock.

As a result, she stopped eating. This turtle doesn't eat her greens unless they're in the water, and since she wasn't going into the water, she really didn't have access to her food.

It took a day of re-arranging, moving turtles from one tub to another, making sure that the less hearty turtles could enjoy some shade from the sun.

I'm happy to say that in her new tub on the ground floor, the little turtle is eating well and basking her usual length of time.

Of all the turtles affected by the heat, my snake-necked turtle Bugsy suffered the most. As the weather grew warmer and warmer, he would rest longer and longer on top of his house. There's something extremely pathetic about a turtle resting his long, long neck on top of his home, his eyes shut tight as he struggled to regulate his temperature.

My turtle vet once instructed me to bring his tub inside my house where the temperatures would be lower, but, unfortunately, my little home isn't wide enough to accommodate Bugsy's fairly large tub.

Besides, how could I possibly change the water in his tub without flooding the entire floor?

Over the years, whenever the temperature rises, Bugsy himself makes adjustments. As a carnivore, he doesn't eat vegetables, but in the heat, he no longer eats the shrimp he normally feasts on. Instead, he prefers roughly chopped beef.

How do I know he wants beef? A few years ago, when temperatures rose and he stopped eating shrimp, I started experimenting with other foods - octopus, river fish of all kinds, even pork and chicken.

To make sure I knew what he would eat, I put in a different food each day. I knew he was hungry, even though he refused his shrimp, but each day, as soon as he saw bits and pieces of any of these alternatives, he'd swim over, touch a bit with his nose, and then swim away.

I don't like feeding any turtle beef, pork or chicken, none of which comes close to what his species would eat in the wild, but when I dropped some beef into his tub, he swam over, nosed it, then immediately gulped it down.

Why Bugsy likes beef, I don't know, but as long as I can keep him eating, beef is what he'll get.

In previous years, as soon as weather cooled down, he'd stop asking for beef and return to the shrimp.

This year is different. The temperature has dropped, but Bugsy still prefers beef. He'll eat a bit of shrimp but slowly, the way a child will eat his favourite food first and then the food he likes less.

I don't know why, of course, but I'd guess the timing of the temperature changes might be playing a part.

In previous years, the hot season has disappeared a bit earlier, in July or August. This year, the cool season came around September.

I'd guess that right now, Bugsy is one confused turtle.

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