A Bundle of Joy

January 24, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Posted in itchy fingers | 2 Comments
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Saturday was indeed a very happy day for Itchyfingers! It was better than striking the lottery….not that I bought any before…hahaaa! For the past one and a half month I was so worried and stressed but now I felt so relieved!

So why am I so happy? Because my turtle, Girl Girl finally laid her eggs! 😀

It was not the first time she had eggs, but the previous times she had no problem laying them…often dropping either one of two in the water…There was once she even produced 13 eggs in a clutch over a few days! I know it is not natural for them to lay eggs in the water, but gravid female turtles are very fussy and particular about the nesting site, even more so for captive ones. There were times I provided sand for her and she simply refused to use them, and struggled out of it. I was so desperate to help her that I even tried shredding pieces of paper and polyester fiber stuffings for teddy bear, only to have my good intention be completed rejected by her! So all these while, she ended up laying her eggs in the water, often at night, so we would wake up finding an egg in the water. Sometimes she would also lay during the day, but she would never do it in her human’s presence. Shy maybe… :p Tisu Boy said maybe it’s animal instinct to want to protect her eggs from harm? Er, but I am her sister leh… :p

So this time round when she had her eggs, I was expecting her to deposit them one by one in the water again. But…I was so wrong…

Early last December, I noticed Girl Girl started to make some noise that sounds like a hiccup. Initially I had dismissed it as maybe she was really having bouts of hiccups like I sometimes do but it just didn’t go away after a few days. Having lost another of my baby Mei Mei nearly three years back due to respiratory infection, I didn’t want to take any chance this time…though her sympton looked completely different. 😦 So I rushed Girl Girl to the nearest animal clinic. Didn’t really get a satisfied diagnosis despite showing a video clip of Girl Girl making the noise…probably the vet was not so experienced with turtles, as it was the first time he heard about that. But he said turtles do not have diaphragm, so they cannot hiccup. He said it sounded more like a cough, which might be caused by a respiratory infection.


Girl Girl making the strange noise that sounds like hiccups or a little frog’s croak…


I am quite sure that was not a yawn towards the end of this clip. Before they yawn,
they would normally lower their head and arch up the neck before opening the mouth
to do a yawn – something that I always observed but can never catch on video in time

As it is near impossible to make turtles take oral medication, injection is the best way to administer drugs on them. I would have to do the injection of 10 doses of antibiotics on alternative days on my own, otherwise I would have to bring Girl Girl over to the clinic each time for the jab. My goodness! So under the vet’s supervision, I had to learn how to do the injection on the hindleg…a painful experience for both me and my baby… 😦 She was supposed to get better after two or three jabs and be cleared after a week or so…

As I couldn’t bring myself to do the injection again, I asked Tisu Boy to help out…But five days and two injections later, Girl Girl didn’t seemed to be getting better…So to be on the safe side, we decided to get a second opinion from another vet whom she had seen some years back for an abrasion problem. On a pet discussion forum, Dr Frederick Chua from Allpets & Aqualife Clinic was recommended by some.

Unfortunately, Dr Chua also has never encounter case of turtle making such strange sound..but he dismissed it as coughs – possibly Girl Girl trying to force some air from the body. But he agreed on the prescription of the antibiotics, Baytril, which most turtles respond well for respiratory problem, though he would normally recommend only five doses on consecutive days. It was a relief for me as it meant less pain for her too. While checking Girl Girl for overall well-being, he said she was having eggs after palpating the region of the body cavity above her hindlegs. That was the first time I learnt how to feel for eggs! At that moment, I assumed Girl Girl would lay them in the water again so was not too concerned over it…I would rather solve the respiratory problem first…as it is one of the top killer in turtles. 😦

While the frequency of Girl Girl making the strange sound seemed to reduce (though not completely gone) over the next few days, it was apparent now that she was indeed carrying eggs. In the water, she behaved agitated and wanted to get out. When I brought her out for walk about in the house, she started digging the floor with her hindlegs – a confirmed sign that she was trying to look for nesting site. So I thought I was gonna expect some eggs to be deposited in the water very soon…

But it did not happen. After two weeks I was starting to get worried. On the third week, I started to panic as I knew something was not very right and I had to do something to help. Egg binding in turtles is not good and it CAN KILL – “retained eggs become increasingly calcified the longer they are held. The eggshell, which is normally flexible in many (but not all) aquatic turtles, will become brittle and may fracture internally; causing egg-yolk peritonitis, a very serious condition that can quickly prove fatal if not treated in the earliest stages.”

Unfortunately, Dr Chua had a slipped disc problem and was on medical leave. Taking over was Dr Winnie Teo instead. She looked young so that didn’t give me much confidence initially. And she could not tell if Girl Girl had eggs by feeling for them in the cavity behind the legs. The best way to confirm was to do an X-ray, but the clinic does not have the facility. So we were referred to another clinic to do it.

As appointments were already full, we had to wait two more days before sending Girl Girl to do the X-ray. Turned out she had six eggs…


Can you see the six eggs? I saw x-ray photo of another species of a bigger
aquatic turtle having more than 19 eggs! Girl Girl looks cute even on x-ray! :p

The next morning back at Allpets, Dr Teo explained that normal eggs should look more whitish on the X-ray film. Girl Girl’s eggs showed that the shells were thin, a sign that she lacked calcium in her diet. So she gave her a dose of Calcium Gluconate to compensate for the lack of it and Oxytocin, a homone which helps to induce contraction in the uterus to allow the eggs to pass out. Oxytocin is also used in cats and dogs, and even humans, so it is a very safe drug with no side effects. We were given a second dose of oxytocin in case she still couldn’t lay the eggs after one day.

So I waited and waited…the four hour window passed. Called the vet and was asked to wait for a day before giving the second dose if still no laying of eggs. One more day passed. Still no sign of any eggs though she seemed to be getting more agitated but could still eat quite a bit. I had bought her some 10 kg of river sand for her to try to pass her eggs, gave lukewarm water and put her under the sun to warm herself…but nothing happened. I was so stressed…


Girl Girl trying to get out of the nesting box. It would be more ideal to provide
a nesting area with her water for her to choose when to go up to the sand,
but with space constraint, that was not possible… 😦 So I tried to accustom
her to the nesting box frequently so that she would not be traumatised
with the change of environment…

The third day I called the clinic. After discussing with Dr Chua, Dr Teo suggested getting more doses of the Calcium Gluconate and vitamin mixture to inject her. It was possible that Girl Girl had been lacking calcium in her diet so we got to try build up the calcium first and hope that it would help. Actually that was what I read on the internet – “to induce a reluctant turtle to lay her eggs with oxytocin, usually preceded by a few days of injectable calcium gluconate.”

The next one and a half week must be a traumatic experience for Girl Girl. Not only she had to be injected daily with Baytril to clear her remaining respiratory problem, she had to be given the higher dosage of calcium and vitamin jab every three days also. It was really painful to see her suffer…but good thing Tisu Boy started to get better with the injection so that reduced the time taken and hence lessened the pain.


Imagine having to poke those sharp needles into these beautiful and sexy
butt cheeks…so poor thing!

On Friday 21 Jan, we were left with the last calcium jab. Was getting so worried that we might have no choice but to perform surgery on Girl Girl to take out the eggs…not a preferred method as it is dangerous and not as straight forward as in the case of dogs and cats as the shell would have to be cut opened! Sounds scary and I wouldn’t want my Girl to go through that!

Warning: This is a very graphic clip of open surgery on an egg bound turtle.. 😦
I couldn’t bring myself to look at this video without taking off my glasses…too much pain for me…I feel for this poor female turtle… poor thing…  😦 I don’t want to see this again….

On Saturday 22 Jan, I was really hoping for the best cos if Girl Girl still cannot lay her eggs, we may have to start the whole routine of injecting four doses of Calcium Gluconate again and then Oxytocin. So, with all itchy fingers crossed, we gave her the last dose of Calcium + vitamin jab before injecting her with 0.3ml of Oxytocin half an hour later. The next one hour was a very crucial time – if within this one hour she still cannot lay her eggs, we would have to give her a second dose of 0.2ml Oxytocin. To give her some privacy, we left her undisturbed in the sand to do our own things. But my mind was very uneasy, I was very worried that she would still refuse to lay her eggs..


The second dose..

I took occasional peeps at her but only to be disappointed. One long hour passed. We resigned ourselves and were ready to give her the second dose of Oxytocin. But the moment we went to her nesting box, we saw some white stuff from her tail…Girl Girl was finally laying egg!!!!!!! And the best thing was we saw her laying it!!! It was the first time she laid eggs in front of her humans! We must had caught her off guard in the act!!!! Hahahah!!!!!! I was so happy I screamed like a mad person and rushed to get my camera ready to shoot some turtle laying eggs video. But when I returned she didn’t lay any more eggs, although the tail was still wriggling. Aiya! Missed the action! But nevermind lah! At least now that she had laid the first egg, there should be lesser problems laying the rest. So we just have to wait. I called the clinic to check with them and Dr Teo advised to hold on to the second dose and see if she would lay the rest.


The first egg. How did it get out from the relatively small tail? 😀

We left her alone again so as not to stress her…maybe my mad woman screaming startled her a bit so she was wary of laying the rest…Couldn’t help it leh! Was so relieved!


Girl Girl crawling around the nesting box. I was worried that she might
crash her eggs…thought she would lay them deeper in the sand…


The next moment I peeped at her, there were two beautiful eggs! So did
she kick the first egg over?

I decided to really leave her alone and went off to buy lunch, now that I could really eat with peace of mind. 🙂 When I came back to check on her, I was over the moon!!!!!


1, 2, 3, 4, 5!!!!! I counted five eggs until Girl Girl moved a bit to show the 6th
eggs!!!!! She had finally laid all six eggs!!!!!! Yeah!!!!!!!

It must be the happiest moment for me for the past one and a half month!!! I praised her and took her out of the nesting box for cleaning. Girl Girl is such a brave girl to endure all the injections!


So the first egg was still at very much the same position. Those at the right
must be the second and third pieces.. 🙂


Can see the golden yellow yolk inside…The eggs are about 4.5cm long and
thicker than my itchy fingers… 🙂 These are all unfertilised eggs which
will not hatch. They are very soft as the shells are very thin. I had always
thought that is normal…now I know it is because there is deficiency in
calcium


The eggs after two days

I have always feel bad about not being able to provide my babies with bigger tanks for housing due to limited space. But the food I give varies from commercial turtle pellets to small Silverfish (also called White Bait), veggies, fruits and eggs. So when the vet said Girl Girl still lacks calcium, I felt really guilty that I didn’t do enough. A better quality turtle pellet was recommended. I think like humans, it takes time to build up calcium in your body whereas draining them is much faster. The fact that Girl Girl was able to lay her eggs previous times and not this time may indicate that her calcium content is getting lower as she gets older – Girl Girl is 16 years old, still pretty young for turtles but if her diet does not improve, more problems in laying eggs will come later. Turtles in captivity are able to live as long as 35 years, which means that they are a truly a life-time commitment. But I often see people, especially parents buying baby turtles from pet shops for their kids when they see how cute they are. All my turtles were bought by my sister and parents but now only my mum and I are looking after them. What people failed to realise is that these beautiful and cute baby Red Eared Sliders grow very fast in their early years and that they will mess up the tank with droppings very often. Many ended up being abandoned by these owners when the novelty is gone. Most people will say that they are releasing them back to nature, or 放生 – giving a new lease of life, which they believe is an act of kindness. But Red Eared Sliders are from the United States and not native to Singapore. Releasing them into our waters means competition for food and spaces with our native species of turtles as they are more aggressive. Hence they are often unfairly referred to as alien or invasive species. But it is a just natural instinct to survive so we cannot really blame these non-native species. We only have ourselves to blame for being irresponsible pet owners.


A poster at MacRitchie Reservoir advises against the act of releasing
animals or unwanted pets into our parks and reserves. Many do not survive
well as they cannot fend and find food for themselves. There was this very
terrible and sad case of a female Red Eared Slider being crashed into bloodied
pieces on the road by caseless driver, thanks to its irresponsible owner.
Itchyfingers was so traumatised that I cannot bring myself to attach it here.
Do take a look at ACRES‘s facebook page here

Having said that, one cannot deny that these beautiful turtles do make very good companion if you can commit yourself to take good care of them. They may not be as cuddly as the furry dogs and cats but they do respond to your call. They do not seek as much attention as cats and dogs and do not fall sick easily provided you give them proper and clean housing together with a balanced diet. This is very important as they normally do not make any sound if they were sick and vets that can attend to turtles are fewer than those who see cats and dogs. It is also more difficult to treat a turtle because all the vital organs are hidden within the shell. The saddest thing is, most turtle owners may not even bother to bring them to the vet…afterall they are sold so cheaply in pet shops and it may not justify paying hundreds of dollars treating them. But a life is a life, how can we put a price to it?

Lastly, I would like to thank all the staff at Allpets and Aqualife clinic, Dr Frederick Chua and Dr Winnie Teo, especially Dr Teo, who always responded and returned my numerous frantic calls promptly and answered my various questions patiently.


Girl Girl says, “Thank you for helping me! I feel better now.” 🙂

Also see related posts:
> New Lease of Life?
> Alien vs Natives
> Children of Heaven – Bangkok, Thailand Trip #2
> Respect for Life Begins with Concern for Animals
> Slow But Steady – World Turtle Day
> In Loving Memories of Mei Mei (28 Mar 1993 – 4 May 2008)

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2 Comments »

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  1. in the open surgery video, was the turtle making noises? Somehow I cringed while watching the video.. heart pain..

    • i dunnu leh….i dun dare to see again…very scary…if it’s other animals will watch again…this one…dun wanna see liao…tot she was still moving when the operation was going on…maybe just reflex reaction….?


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