Description (short):
How to attach a bright colorful string to your pet tortoise to keep track of her wanderings.
Answer- Velcro and yarn

Description (long):
Tortoises are wonderful, mischievous, and bizarre. Our russian tortoise resides primarily in a simple 10 gallon tank with bedding and a feeding end. We try to make up for her lack of space in her tank by letting her roam about the house a couple of times a day. We also enjoy bringing her to the park or the yard of our apartment complex to let her explore the world and get some sunshine.

We like letting our tortoise roam about the house and usually keep a good eye, but invariably she manages to sneak off and we spend hours playing hide-and-seek trying to find out where she went. We even had a 4 foot tall fenced in garden that she escaped numerous times, and we didn't realize how, until we caught her in the act (see pictures). The Russian tortoise is apparently a trained escape artist, very fast moving, really well camouflaged and good at burrowing. We need a solution where we can let her have fun, but still make sure she is safe and that we can find her.

Goal -  Maximize tortoise freedom while keeping her safe and locatable

I was so intrigued by what made the tortoise do what she did, that I did a study and visualization of her movements through my apartments called "The Tortoise Tracker" (digital version). Afterward I realized a method for being able to simply follow her whereabouts without the aid of multiple camera arrays.

So follow along, and I can show you one quick way of letting your tortoise have fun and explore the world while still being able to find her at the end of the day! Tortoise freedom now! -but with a really long leash

  • I am not responsible for lost tortoises, or anything else bad that may happen to your poor pet, this is just a fun idea to try at your own will, you should still keep a watchful eye upon your pet at all times.
  • If you are a person who gets super upset about people painting or gluing things on their tortoises shell, you might still get super angry at me, but i tried to design the system such that it causes minimum discomfort for her and everything is 100% non-permanent (water soluble adhesives). Plus it will probably cause less discomfort having a tiny sticker on her back than if she gets accidentally stepped on because she snuck off somewhere and went invisible.

Step 1: Alternate Prior Designs

Originally we would put shiny stickers on her back, to help distinguish her from the grass that she would be roaming around in. These would stay on quite well, and not interfere with her movement at all. She still managed to sneak away quite often however.

Making a little tactical suit for your tortoise is super tricky, especially because they have retractable limbs and don't like sitting in your lap while you try to get measurements. In the past I have made harnesses from cardboard (bad), duct tape (alright), bendable wire (alright). In general harnesses are super difficult to create, put on, and take off the tortoise. 

Those soft, velcro cord organizers (http://cableorganizer.com/wire-wrap/) were the best things that I have seen for quickly constructing a nice harness. Generally harnesses are OK for a temporary situation, but inevitably the tortoise will find some way out of the harness or get herself caught.

Making your tortoise appear physically taller can help to locate it, but unfortunaltey prevents the poor creature from crawling underneath things which is probably one of its favorite activities.

The most failed attempt at tortoise visibility was attaching a bouquet of balloons to her. Mostly she did not like wearing the rudimentary harness to which the balloons attached, but the other problem was that when the wind blew, it could actually blow the balloons around and tip the poor tortoise over. I was kind of cool seeing the bundle of balloons navigate around the apartment and park. Here is a video dramatization of what could happen with such a system:
This is a very entertaining Instructable! Please be careful when applying any substance (like glue, paint, etc.) to a tortoise shell. The shell surface is where vitamin D is absorbed as well as water at times. Your Russian tortoise looks great, but her beak is a bit overgrown which could cause mouth leisions along with other detrimental issues. You can simply "file" her beak down with a Dremel tool or take her to an exotics vet who can do this for you. What is her name? I think she is gorgeous and I love that you are keeping her active and trying new things! Have fun! Wendy (Herpetologist, PHX)
Cool! Thanks for the advice regarding the beak. I'll get the dremel out. How do you know if her beak is short enough? Do you have any advice for a method of adhering something to her shell that would be strong enough to hold onto her line, but still be easily removable at the end of the day (maybe something water soluble?) I started trying stick tac putty, but it isn't that strong (though easily removable).<br><br>Thanks for all the advice!
Brilliant! I love the part about your other methods that didn't work. I like to see when someone puts their prev attempts for others to learn from! cute instructable!
<p>I use a bluetooth Tile right now to my Leopard Tortoise and it works great. Just need to figure out a way to make it look decent rather than the current black electrical tape.<br><br>I ordered some TrackR, which are smaller and self-serviceable. I'll let you know if those are better.</p>
I have an African Sulcata tortoise and built an outdoor enclosure for him using patio paver bricks. The walled in area was dug down, below ground level (the depth of 1 brick- about 8 inches) and then 3 more bricks were placed on top to form the walls. He has never escaped and the bricks only need to be close enough as to not allow him to walk through. This will be his 4th summer in the enclosure and he loves it. I added caves and tunnels, supported with lannon stone, as well as a shallow water feature for soaking. He's never been bothered by any wild animals (raccoons, possums, squirrels, etc) and he's fairly camouflaged from people with all of the vegetation I plant for him to eat. I would never trust a fence to keep him contained since he's strong and likes to burrow.
<p>Cool! maybe ill try to build one of those this summer!</p>
<p>We just got a &quot;Remote Control Locator&quot; (Wheresmyremote.com) and some one has used this little battery operated sound alarm on THEIR tortoise to locate it outside. I don;t know what would be the best way to attach it but it would give you a sound to follow. Still need to keep a close eye on them tho!</p><p>There are several types of turtles and tortoises' that climb; there is a local-to-us turtle that climbs trees and rock walls and goes walk-about; twice we have found the same one at the same spot on the same day of the year! We had a Chinese Reeves that could climb a sheer sided cardboard box with no indents etc---we would sometimes put her in there to clean her tank and could not figure out HOW she got out--we were blaming the youngest kid! One day we discovered her climbing out! She would also get under a heavy Chinese desk that had a base a few inches above the floor and would use her feet to wedge herself under there by pushing up her shell so we could NOT get her out without moving the entire VERY heavy desk---fraught with danger so we did not slip and crush her. We had to block the base to keep her out. She also loved getting under beds and our Border Collie Sheep Dog would track her for us. </p><p>See---there's your answer! Get a sheep dog and train the DOG to keep watch over the tortie!</p><p>There. I fixed it. </p>
very cleaver! <a href="http://www.horsefieldtortoise.co.uk/" rel="nofollow">I</a> will have to try that on mine!
The shell of turtles and Tortoises are sensitive and contain nerve endings.In other words they can feel through their shells. Attaching things by means of &quot;tacky&quot; or glues will poison them. Also binding a harness to them is also not recommended. instead construct an escape proof enclosure and be vigilant to the animals when allowed to run free in a yard. There are many on line clubs (e-groups) that can offer good suggestions for enclosures. Facebook also offers many members with turtles and Tortoises that are more than eager to offer suggestions and plans.
Have 35 years of experience with turtles and I'm very fond of these animals. UncleMike you are absolutely right about the tortoise's shell. There is great sensitivity in the shell - much more than in your own fingernails. Please avoid applying your tortoise this kind of evil. Also the cord can hang onto different objects or wrap around the tortoise's legs or even worse its neck. <br>It concerns me deeply that so many find this treatment of the animal funny and cool. <br>So many tortoises in captivity are treated both ignorant and vicious, which hurts me deeply to think about. This is evident in several other posts on this site. It should not be allowed for these people to keep these animals. <br>(The tortoise in the picture is not well, as evidenced by both its eyes and the shell.) <br>Treat your tortoise with respect. Provide adequate and good living conditions and you could have a friend for life. :o)
Great post! Very interesting to read the user comments about Vitamin D coming through the Tortoise's shell (much like our skin I suppose). I work for a company called Loc8tor and we manufacture a slightly more high-tec solution, we've had some very satisfied tortoises, let me tell you! You can see our device in action on the link below. <br> <br>http://www.loc8tor.com/uk/pets
I'm getting a tortoise! thank you!!!
no prob!
Very good and informative instructable! I've always wanted a tortise and will get one when the time is right. None of my tortise books mentioned their fence-climbing abilities - forewarned is forearmed.
I recognize a couple of those pictures. Sneaking fence climber!
Yeah! I am forever endebted to you discovering that and documenting it!
LOL video
This is wrong on so many levels, I love it!
This would have come in handy for the tortoise we lost about 6 years back. Strangely enough, after we originally lost it, we found it like 2 winters later. But then we lost it again. : /
Holy flying tortoise!

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Bio: I want computers to be wilder. https://twitter.com/HikingHack
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