There are available four types of American box turtles â€“ the eastern, the three toed, the gulf-coast and the ornate varieties. Two other types are from the Far East â€“ Chinese and Malayan box turtles. Breeding in captivity is as yet not common. Most of those found in pet shops come in straight from the wild. Unfortunately this leads to small pincer holes on their backs. The American variety is partly aquatic but spends a lot of time on dry land near shallow water. The Asian ones are more partial to water.
Box turtles are subjected to great stress during the trip from the wild to the pet shop. It often causes bacterial infection making the turtles look emaciated and dehydrated. This leads to a loss of appetite. Veterinary assistance combined with love and care will give the box turtle a good chance to live out many years. Its life span is longer than human beings. Box turtles need to hibernate for 2/3 months at temperatures hovering around 50-60F. So it is best not to buy overstressed turtles from autumn to spring.
A healthy turtle will feel heavy and not like an empty shell. A healthy turtle will vigorously pull back a leg if the limb is teased out. The eyes should be open and alert and the rest of the body free from swellings or discoloration of any kind. The nose should be free from secretions without emanating any clicking sound as it breathes. The beak should be even and not broken.
The best house for a turtle is a 40-gallon tank of wood high enough for the pet to climb out. The inside must be waterproof with layers of paint. The flooring should consist of clean and damp soil mixed with orchid bark, free from sand and gravel. A hide box with a doorway will be excellent for its privacy. A large pan of fresh water kept in a corner must be big enough for the box turtle to crawl in. The tank is to be thermo heated and also fitted with a lamp, which can be switched off at night.
The box turtle will warm up in the morning before eating. Plants and animal products may be given every alternate day. The vegetable menu consists of grated carrots, beans, oranges, flower petals and bits of canned dog food. Fresh worms and snails will add the extra tang of a festive treat.
The box turtle is a symbol of patience and endurance combined with longevity.
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