It seems like only yesterday that I was walking past a pet shop and saw a rather sorry collection of clearly ill tortoises on sale... in fact, it was well over 35 years ago. I had long been interested in reptiles, and as a child had kept snakes and geckos. Those tortoises reignited my interest, and before long, together with the late Jill Martin, I found myself taking in all manner of sick and unwanted tortoises and turtles. It was clear that information in the field was lacking, and that much of the information out there was just plain wrong, and in many cases, lethally so. Thus began the research that subsequently took over my entire life. It has led to some pretty remarkable places, from the Galapagos Islands, through the Middle East and North Africa, to North and South America, and to the Mediterranean (where I now live and continue to study tortoises in their natural habitat). Sadly, despite all of the new knowledge we now have on captive husbandry, you can still find sick animals on sale in pet stores, and poor information is, if anything, even more rife now than it was when we started. We try to keep the books as up to date as possible, and of course, make recent research available via the Tortoise Trust website.
Over the past four years, we have spent thousands of hours monitoring wild tortoises, recording their diets and behaviour, and have used a variety of "high-tech" methods (including data-loggers and infra-red thermography cameras) in order to enhance our understanding of their biology and lifestyle. We have also carried out similar, comparative, studies on captive animals. This new data has allowed us to understand in much more detail what often "goes wrong" in so many captive situations. By applying this new information, we can continue to develop improved methods and can enhance tortoise welfare considerably.
It is quite amazing when you consider even some of the most 'obvious' stuff that until these studies was completely unknown. For example, we found true nocturnal behaviour in Testudo graeca - an animal known since 1758, yet no-one had ever previously recorded this in the species. Quite remarkable. It certainly demonstrates that unless you take the time and trouble to look, you will never know!
Since this is author central and I am supposed to share 'interesting details' with my readers, while most know me for my work with tortoises and turtles, it is less known that I have, for just as long as I have been involved in that area, taken an equal interest in vintage guitars and mandolins, and have run a recording studio specialising in acoustic, traditional music. Even less well known is that I have a book on that subject coming out in 2014. So there you are, you looked at this and now you know.