You're in > TPG Members Forum > Indoor and Outdoor Enclosures > Poly tunnel plans

Poly tunnel plans
Posted: 05/07/2014 by Keeley

I start a new job next month as teacher/ farm manager at a school farm. They have 3 leopard tortoises that were rescues through Airport Customs confiscations. They're big guys, looked after very well. But there is a fair-sized poly tunnel I'd like to convert into a LT paradise.It will need re-covering and insulating, but already has electrics in place. Ideas so far include: variety of substrates (sand, straw, topsoil), sunken shallow water trough with ramp, inner wooden house for night time security, basking spot, partial under floor heating (soil-warming cable?), straw bales for extra insulation around sides, pots and planters for fodder/ prickly pear, outer run for sunny days. Is it achievable for year round accommodation? What other ideas/ considerations do you have? I want to demonstrate to our students the absolute best husbandry for all our animals and make it stimulating and safe for the tortoises.Thanks in advance.

Re: Poly tunnel plans
Posted: 06/07/2014 by Tom

Hello Keeley,

Can you provide details of the size of the torts. please, I'm aware you've stated "big." Also the area of the poly tunnel & the area of the proposed outside "run."


Re: Poly tunnel plans
Posted: 07/07/2014 by Keeley

Thanks for the reply. Not sure of weights of the tortoises. I'd say the biggest two were 16" shell length and one a bit smaller. Will weigh them when I start in post in August. The poly tunnel is roughly 12 metres x 3 metres. It's set on earth within an enclosed large garden. Plenty of space around it for an outside run, I'd say about 4 squared metres by either end and a metre all around. The tunnel is partially shaded, so remains cooler at one end. There is a large pond in the garden, so fencing will ensure the tortoises can't get to this. Open to suggestions as to the inner structure. It will have to be predator proof as foxes have been sighted at night.There is also a smaller glass green house in the garden 2m x 3m with a slate substrate which could be used (perhaps just in winter). 

Re: Poly tunnel plans
Posted: 08/07/2014 by Tom

Thanks for the details.

The tunnel is a really good size for them. Earth is fine as a substrate, perhaps make 'air holes' with a fork, so that urine drains away quickly. It would be advisable to remove the top couple of inches of soil & replace it every few months. The soil removed could eventually be used again. 
Underfloor heating is not recommended for chelonia. The heat spots you suggest are a good idea. They will need one each using UVB bulbs within large 'hood' reflectors.
Re. soaking, do this under supervision in individual containers. If left they foul the water, then drink it ! Use small ceramic terracotta pots (Spanish cooking) for drinking water.
You will need some strong fencing, especially round the pond. You'll be aware that G. pardalis need hay in their diet, so avoid straw as they will eat it & their feed needs to be carefully balanced. As there is a limited amount of space outside, they are likely to graze it down quickly, so hopefully there's an area where fast growing grasses can be grown.

Re. the 2 x 3m greenhouse for use in winter, this is rather small for animals of their size. Try too get funding for something a bit bigger. 

Your plan to use the tunnel is excellent. Your ideas will evolve with use. Perhaps write an article for the TPG in due course. 

I imagine that they were seized because of incorrect paperwork. It is a disgrace that they are imported by the pet trade quite legally. Many are purchased when quite small & often live hellishly in inappropriate housing when bigger.


Re: Poly tunnel plans
Posted: 24/07/2014 by Don

Do please bare in mind that polycarbonate absorbs UV light. These sub-Saharan species require a good deal of UVB to maintain their health. Keep them outside of the tunnel whenever the weather permits and supply UV lighting in the tunnel at all other times.


web designer: