You can lead a tortoise to water
But he’ll only just hide from it. Or at least that’s what our 230 lb giant Aldabra Tortoise started doing one day recently. He wasn’t drinking or eating at all, and acting very lethargic, so we admitted him into the hospital to see if we could figure it out. First we tried changing his diet, thinking that a new food item might stimulate his appetite. Next we tried various combinations of heat and humidity, since a change in environment can easily alter behavior. Nothing helped. We draw blood and took X-rays, but they revealed nothing. So we upped the ante and took him to hte human hospital for a CT scan.
Oftentimes human medical staff will donate their time and equipment to help out zoo animals. It gives them a new challenge to work on and presumably warm fuzzy feelings as well. In this case, the big challenge was an uncooperative patient. Injectible anesthetics take a long time to work in reptiles, thanks to their slow metabolisms, and our guy wasn’t even feeling his by he time we arrived at the hospital. They wheeled him into the CT room on a human gurney, a sight that amused me greatly. Once in the room, he knew something was up, and refused to sit still. Tortoise are STRONG and know it. The have no qualms about throwing themselves at any obstacle and pushing their way through, regardless of how expensive or fragile their surroundings may be. So we taped his legs down. Until he snapped the tape. We wrapped him in towels, but he pushed his way out. We covered his head, which helped, and we prepared to take the films, but inevitably he would attempt to dive off the table at the last second. Eventually, with the help of a roll and a half of duct tape, the long-awaited activation of the drugs, and a large tortilla-like sling, we wrapped him tightly enough to get the job done.
We got a CD full of images for our trouble, along with software that could compile the flat images into an eye-popping 3D computed model of the tortoise’s body. The model could be rotated on all 3 axes and viewed from all angles and directions. It was like being in a sci-fi movie, but better because it was Real. Films all came up normal though.