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Roman's Brumation

🐢 Put your tortoise in the fridge they said... it’s safer they said...❄️🌡🐢

Last summer, many of you enjoyed Roman’s impression of Dominic Cummings as he made repeated escape attempts during the lockdown.

What's the difference between hibernation and brumation I hear you say? Well, brumation is the term which generally applies to ectotherms (cold-blooded animals) and hibernation applies to endotherms (warm-blooded or self-regulating animals). The key difference between the terms hibernation and brumation is that ectotherms can withstand reduced levels of oxygen due to to the glycogen in their blood. This is a super cool mechanism since many ectotherms will burrow deep into soils and sands to avoid frosts and predators and to maintain a stable temperature!

🐢Roman the tortoise needs less food than endotherms. This is because he cannot regulate his own temperature (like an endotherm) and therefore needs less fuel! So much so, that he let me know he was ready for his first brumation by both slowing down and not eating!

❄️ And so as the cool autumnal evenings drew to an earlier close, the cooling, weighing, and last baths for Roman the Tortoise began.

Now ideally, there would be plenty of deep soil and a fairly reliable temperature range for Roman to safely hibernate outside. However, after assessing the following risks:

⚠️ The outdoor temperature range too great due to climate change. This poses a risk as once he awakens from brumation, glycogen is released from his liver into his bloodstream to provide an extra boost of energy. This amount in their system should they cool down again can be deadly ☠️

⚠️ rats can eat hibernating tortoises

⚠️ possibly not enough depth of soil if temp dropped too much (as the temp drops, they dig down to maintain their own temp and avoid freezing)

⚠️ age (still very young- not hibernated before)

the decision to control the hibernation was taken. So to the fridge, it is!

Equipment used in prep:

🌡 x2 for holding room (cool room prior to hibernating) and fridge to monitor and ensure the temperature does not fluctuate beyond the range of 4-8ºC

📦 x 2 a small cardboard box he can turn around in if needs be and that can be filled with topsoil, and a larger polystyrene box for insulation, both with ventilation holes.

🌡 Twin reading thermometer with probe and alarm - the alarm will go off if the fridge goes outside of the range. This can save a tortoises life!

⚖️ Scales to weigh him

🐢 Roman will only be hibernating for 4 weeks for his first time. He will be weighed once a week and his weight mustn’t drop below 10% of the previous weight measured.

I will continue to follow vet advice throughout and update everyone on Roman’s winter getaway! Wish me luck!


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