Tortilla the tortoise gets her groove back after blood transfusion

22 November 2021 - 07:38
Three weeks after her blood transfusion, Tortilla is feasting on a varied diet and getting stronger every day.
Three weeks after her blood transfusion, Tortilla is feasting on a varied diet and getting stronger every day.
Image: Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinarian Hospital

Tortilla, a confiscated Leopard tortoise, is recovering after receiving a blood transfusion at the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinarian Hospital at the beginning of the month.

The wildlife non-profit group said a poor diet led to her severe anemia.

She was admitted to the hospital for treatment of a large wound on her front right leg. 

Small animal veterinary surgeon Dr Karin Lourens, known as Dr K, said Tortilla was sedated so she could be properly examined.

“While under sedation we took blood for routine blood work and found that she was extremely anaemic. This is not easily identifiable in reptiles as they don’t show disease as readily as mammals and birds.”

Tortilla receiving a blood transfusion at the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinarian Hospital.
Tortilla receiving a blood transfusion at the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinarian Hospital.
Image: Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinarian Hospital
Blood for Tortilla came from a healthy Leopard tortoise also in the care of the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinarian Hospital.
Blood for Tortilla came from a healthy Leopard tortoise also in the care of the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinarian Hospital.
Image: Wildlife Veterinarian Hospital

Blood test results showed her packed cell volume (PCV, a blood count test to diagnose polycythaemia, dehydration or anaemia) was 5% when it should have been above 28%.

“This anemia can have many causes but was most likely the result of poor husbandry and incorrect diet, often a lettuce only diet,” Dr K said.

“Lettuce doesn't have much nutritional value. Many tortoises are fed inappropriate diets and end up with serious health issues.

“Her severe anemia was life-threatening and our team acted swiftly to perform a blood transfusion.”

A healthy Leopard tortoise which was an inpatient at the time was Tortilla's donor.

The tortoise is slowly recuperating under supervision in Dr K’s garden.

“We were extremely worried about her and are pleased to report she is doing much better and bulldozing succulents in the garden. She indulges in a smorgasbord of food items to ensure she regains her strength.

“Wildlife should never be pets and we cannot emphasise enough that taking them from their wild habitat is not only cruel, but illegal too.”

The veterinarian hospital treats indigenous animals free of charge, relying solely on donations and support from the community. There are about 150 patients in their care, including nine Lesser bushbabies.

The hospital has asked for sponsorship for their special milk formula, insects and fruit which cost R93 for all nine a day.

“As their appetites grow, the cost of incorporating insects and other bushbaby delicacies grows too. We are in our busiest season and using many of our consumables faster than ever. We have more than 150 patients in our care and need all the help we can get. Our monthly costs are near R400,000.”

If you are concerned about a wild animal, contact Joburg Wildlife Vets on their 24-hour phone line 071 248 1514.

TimesLIVE



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