Thursday, January 5, 2012

Update On The Hermann's Tortoise Eggs

As you may recall, on December 17th, my female Hermann's Tortoise laid 5 eggs. It was a big surprise to me as I thought she was ready to go into hibernation. I figured all the attention the male had been paying to her over the previous couple of months would likely result in eggs being laid in the spring. Wrong and I wound up having to swiftly find and prepare my incubator for the eggs.

Tonight, while tending to the eggs, I have to keep the sphagnum moss substrate in which they sit somewhat damp. So, every few days, check on it and usually have to moisten it. After doing that tonight, I decided to candle the eggs. Candling simply means holding an egg to a light source in order for the light to shine through the shell enough so you can see if the egg has been fertilized. I could not tell for sure on any of the eggs the last few times I looked although I thought I saw the red lines of veins in a couple of them. Tonight's inspection had different results. All of the eggs appeared to be infertile gave clear evidence that all five eggs had been successfully fertilized by the male, that spry and very sexually active little bastard! They all appear to be progressing nicely and I could plainly see the embryo in its early stages of development. Candling is truly a simple yet remarkable thing. While you are basically looking at a back lighted silhouette it is somewhat more than that because you are also seeing the embryo as it it lit by the light reflecting back off of the inside of the shell that is furthest from the light and closest to your eye. It was both back lit and lit from the front. Now, you do not see a clear image of it since you are looking at it through an egg shell, and if you see the embryo you can only see one side of it but you certainly can make out its shape and some other features. For instance, the eye of the embryo, closest to the side of the shell from which you are viewing, is remarkably obvious. Other features are the shape of the embryo, veins running from the embryo to the yolk along the inside of the shell (and you can see the color of the veins or at least of the blood in them as they all appear red). All neat stuff, at least for me. I have enjoyed things like that for a long time. I guess it came from 5 years of nature study at summer camp, a younger me only being allowed to keep small animals as pets (frogs, turtles, hamsters, fish - things like that but no cats or dogs), my living in an area in NY City where I could easily find and catch creatures like toads, frogs, box turtles, and garter snakes when I was a kid - try that now except at very few places and the box turtles have bee extirpated), and all those nature shows they used to have on television (still do I suppose). Oh well, I digress, so back to the eggs.

So, the way it appears right now is that I may wind up with 5 hatchling Hermann's Tortoises sometime around February 25th or later. That would bring the total of baby tortoises that I have in my care to 7. I almost won't know what to do with them all. It is not legal, under federal law, to sell them, except for scientific or educational purposes, before they reach 4 inches in length. That will take a couple to a few years. I realize that under federal law, the intention of the law was not to keep hobbyist breeders from selling turtles or tortoises under 4 inches. The FDA clearly states, or once stated, on their website, that such sales were allowed for hobbyists. The thing is that NY State has a similar law and I am not too sure that they care if you are a hobbyist or not, chances are they might arrest someone for selling under sized turtles or tortoises. They make big deals over such silly things when local elections are upcoming and a district attorney wants to show how he is protecting the public from evil under sized chelonians. So, I likely will wait until they hit 4 inches before selling them to anyone other than someone who can show me they will keep them for scientific or educational purposes (and they have to promise to keep them alive and healthy, no weird experiments allowed). Hopefully I will still be around and in good health by the time they otherwise grow large enough to sell.

All the best,
Glenn B

1 comment:

Humble wife said...

I love using the candle to see if our chick/duck/turkey/goose eggs are transforming too!

I had no idea the laws were so rigid, and in NY I would be very cautious to follow the letter of the law...seems like there is no gray area etc.

It is still exciting even with the hassles of selling etc.

Take Care