All posts by Libby ramsden

caring for tortoises


Tortoises are land reptiles that originate from central Asia however many of them have been kept captive as pets for centuries. Tortoises are herbivores therefore they do not eat meat, and have a life span of about 50 years. They only require a modest amount of space and food so are generally an easy pet to care for.


A tortoise’s diet should consist of leafy greens and grasses and should never eat meat. If the reptile Is kept outside, then it will naturally graze on grass and flowers but if it is kept inside the majority of the time then food will be required. Some of the favourite foods that tortoises eat are; dandelion leaves, hay, nettles, cucumber and green vegetables. However, one this that is misunderstood is that tortoises cannot eat iceberg lettuce which is a very common type and can be critical if consumed.

As reptiles do not move much they do not use a lot of energy therefore it is often misconceived how little you need to feed tortoises. On average they only need to be fed several times a week and this can feel like you are depriving the tortoise of food. However, when winter comes around the tortoise will naturally reduce its food intake in preparation for hibernation because if there is food in the stomach when it is hibernation it will rot and cause serious illness. It is very important that tortoises receive the right nutrient and vitamins to keep their shell healthy and shiny, this can be done by sprinkling a calcium supplement on the food.


if you are keeping your tortoise inside then it will need approximately 3 metres squared. The tortoise table or vivarium should be adequately lit with sunlight. They will also need an additional UV light so they can synthesise vitamin D plus a heat lamp so they can bask and keep warm. For the substrate, it is best to use material like sawdust, bark chips maybe mixed with play sand, and it should have a depth of 10cm so that there is enough to dig down and bury in. The enclosure should be kept around 21 degrees Celsius to keep the interior temperature constant because they are unable to do this themselves, as they are cold-blooded. As tortoises naturally like to dig and hide it is important to provide places for them to do this, with logs and wooden houses etc.


Tortoises do not need much exercise and because of this, they do not require much space. If a tortoise is kept inside, it will usually just sleep or eat, so it is important that tortoises get some time outside to exercise. Stereotypically, they do not move quickly however when you are not looking they can definitely move quickly so it is vital that a secure enclosure is used. They love open spaces of grass to graze and walk around on so a back lawn is good enough. Despite them being small reptiles it is important they still get daily exercise to maintain general health and receive some natural sunlight to keep their shells healthy and shiny. Typically, an hour a day outside is adequate.


When tortoises are stressed, it is easy to notice. Firstly, they will rapidly pull their limb into their shell if you try to pick them up. This creates a hissing like noise, which is the air inside their shell being compressed, but this is often misconceived as the tortoise hissing which creates more stress by the handler and consequently the tortoise. Another why of them showing being scared is pooing and urinating a lot and it is normally more watery when scared or stressed. Tortoises also stop eating when they are in a new environment or are uncomfortable so this is experienced often when moving house ect. So to prevent the tortoise from being stressed you should move slowly when attempting to pick it up and and reduce the amount of time that it is being moved from place to place.

Protection from disease

One of the most common diseases amongst tortoises is the ‘runny nose syndrome’, which is an upper respiratory tract infection. It is caused when tortoises are in dusty conditions, lack of sunlight, inappropriate temperature or humidity. To prevent this the right conditions are needed, such as temperature and humidity and a main way to prevent this is by feeding the right diet with no ‘junk food’ such as too much fruit and normal human food. Also another way Is avoiding stress from other animals like dogs ect, but the most important thing to prevent RNS is do not let your tortoise have contact with different species as this is very easy for alien pathogens to spread.

This is going to be part of my first assignment of my pre-vet course at college

thanks for reading

libby x


One of the biggest part of becoming a vets is your grades, you wont’t get into a university without good, even excellent, GCSE’s and A-level’s. Most universitys expect A-A*s at GCSE and AAA at A-level, depending on the course. So deciding to become a vet takes a lot of revision, I am currently studying for my GCSE’s which are in less than a month, and my whole life seems to be revise, revise and revise some more. If you dont have the grades or the dedication to get those grades there are other possiblities around it, such as veterinary nursing or taking an entry level course at university but the shortest way to get there is by working hard and getting those grades. 

My new chick always wanting attention when I revise
My new chick always wanting attention when I revise. 

In the picture is my newly born chick, which loves to revise with me, she lives in my room and she gets bored when I revise and don’t give her attention

Work experience

First day at the vets
First day at the vets

As I am sure all you wannabe vets out there know it is very hard to get work experience at such a young age, but most colleges and universitys expect it nowadays, and they expect a lot of it. Most universitys want experience in a vets practice but it is incredibly hard to get a place with one. I was lucky enough to be accepted to do work experience in a vet hospital near me. I have attended for the past few weeks now and it has been very useful, I have learnt so many new things without even realising it, plus I get to see lots of cute Pets. The vets and vet nurses work so hard and each one of them has an interesting story behind their route to being where they are today.

During my short time at the hospital, I have already seen an X-ray, pre-natal scan on a dog, and an operation, hopefully there will be a lot more to see. I have lots of friends that haven’t found a vets to work at yet so you need to make the right impression when introducing yourself and make sure you write some letters with your contact details on, but be prepared to be turned down a lot of times.

good luck x 

Helping donkeys


Topaz the miniature- So proud I managed to take this photo
Topaz the miniature- So proud I managed to take this photo


Hi guys, 

 It was only last month I came across a new donkey sanctuary in my local area. Well as most aspiring vets would do, I went to go have a visit and ask if they would like any help on a weekly basis, and luckily for me they were more than happy to take me on board.

The sanctuary, began about 8 years ago when the current owner was around the age of ten. Unfortunately she developed a condition which caused her to lose the ability to read or write. She couldn’t do 1+1. However her Mum invested in a rescue donkey and over time her and the donkey got better together. Like most people they got attatched to donkeys and somehow inherited more and more so decided to set up a sanctuary for them And that’s how it all started. The sanctuary is called ‘Wonkey Donkey’ which rather amused me considering the conditions of the donkeys when they arrive.

Currently, there are 18 donkeys in the sanctuary which have travelled from all around the world. From Texas to Ireland and from closer to home, in Leeds. However they have all made it to Wonkey Donkey where they receive the well deserved treatment that they have earned.

I help out every weekend from 8am til 4pm and I love it… Perhaps not the mucking out part but thats all part of the job, in the mornings its the normal mucking out and feeding and grooming the donkeys, but in the afternoon its a lot more social interaction, I give guided tours to the public, a benefit of just turning 16, where I tell them the storys behind each donkey. Some of the storys are just horrific.

Not only is it a fun job but its a great way to gain the vital experience that is needed and it’s yet another thing to put on the CV and personal statement, which is all important when it comes to the university applications. My advice for all you wanna be vets out there is to gain as much experience possible, and don’t just spend 5 years helping out on your uncles stables, variety is key.

Thanks for reading

Libby ramsden 🙂


Lab-grown 3-D intestine regenerates gut lining in dogs

Working with gut stem cells from humans and mice, scientists from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and the University of Pittsburgh have successfully grown healthy intestine atop a 3-D scaffold made of a substance used in surgical sutures.

In a further step that takes their work well beyond proof of concept, researchers report their laboratory-created intestine successfully regenerated gut tissue in the colons of dogs with missing gut lining.

Researchers caution that a fully functioning replacement intestine for humans is far off, but they say their results have laid the critical groundwork to do so.

In an initial set of experiments reminiscent of a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich technique, researchers took stem cells from the colons of babies undergoing intestinal surgeries and from mice, then added immune cells called macrophages, the body’s scavengers that seek out and engulf debris along with foreign and diseased cells. To this mix, they added cells called fibroblasts, whose function is to form collagen and other connective substances that bind tissues and organs together. The idea, the scientists say, was to create a mixture that closely mimics the natural composition of the gut.

In a final step, the investigators implanted pieces of the newly created intestine about 1.6 inches in length into the lower portion of dog colons lacking parts of their intestinal lining. For two months, the dogs underwent periodic colonoscopies and intestinal biopsies. Strikingly, the guts of dogs with implanted intestines healed completely within eight weeks. By contrast, dogs that didn’t get intestinal implants experienced continued inflammation and scarring of their guts.


Elephants could aid human treatment


They are the largest land animals in the world, weighing up to 14,000 pounds and standing up to 4 meters tall. Given their size, elephants should be highly susceptible to cancer – they have at least 100 times more cells than humans – but they rarely develop the disease. In a new study, researchers shed light on the mechanisms behind elephants’ resistance to cancer – information that could fuel knowledge on cancer resistance in humans.

Theoretically, an animal’s cancer risk should increase with their size and lifespan; the bigger an animal is, the more cells they have, which should increase the rate of cell division and susceptibility to gene mutations.

In 1975, however, a study by Dr. Richard Peto, of the University of Oxford in the UK, challenged this notion. He observed that cancer incidence across species is not dependent on an animal’s size or lifespan – a theory that is now hailed “Peto’s Paradox”

Previous research has suggested that specific molecular mechanisms in elephants protect them against cancer, though Dr. Schiffman and colleagues note that such mechanisms are poorly understood.

The researchers assessed information on disease and cause of death for 36 mammalian species, including African or Asian elephants. Overall, the researchers found that cancer mortality rates did not increase with the size or lifespan of a mammal. For example, the cancer mortality rate for elephants was only 4.8%, compared with an 11-25% cancer mortality rate in humans.

  He points out, however, that modern humans are particularly vulnerable to cancer, which is more down to lifestyle factors – such as smoking – that are not seen in other animals. “These behaviors are relatively recently acquired by humans, over a few hundred years, and the risks they impart far exceed prior and otherwise effective cancer suppressor mechanisms that were inherited from primate ancestors,” explains Greaves.

thanks guys

libby ramsden x

why the long face?

Horses share some surprisingly similar facial expressions to humans and chimps, according to new University of Sussex research.

Mammal communication researchers have shown that, like humans, horses use muscles underlying various facial features,including their nostrils, lips and eyes to alter their facial expressions in a variety of social situations.

The study builds on previous research showing that cues from the face are important for horses to communicate, by developing an objective coding system to identify different individual facial expressions on the basis of underlying muscle movement.

The study’s co-lead author, doctoral researcher Jennifer Wathan, said: “Horses are predominantly visual animals, with eyesight that’s better than domestic cats and dogs, yet their use of facial expressions has been largely overlooked. What surprised us was the rich repertoire of complex facial movements in horses, and how many of them are similar To humans”

Despite the differences in face structure between horses and humans, it was identified some similar expressions in relation to movements of the lips and eyes.

thanks guys

libby ramsden x




Day 4 – young ranger academy



Day 4 began in the classroom again, learning about the carnivores on the park, there is the critically endangered amur leapords, the amur tigers, the african lions, painted dogs, polar bears and not forgetting the incredibly cute meerkats. Yorkshire wildlife park is very lucky to have 4 amur leapord in the park, due to there only being 35 left in the wild.

we took a behind the scenes tour of the leapord and tiger house and got to see their menu for the day. They go through so much meat!! 

we returned back to the classrooms and the leaders taught us all about the conservation they do on site. Yorkshire wildlife park is a part of many conservation charitys like the painted dog charity, the polar protection, wild welfare amd many more.

After lunch, we took a trek to the lion enclosure. Where the rangers took us into the very smelly meat container. There was loads of carcuses and horse heads hanging. Urghh! I was suprised to find that that would only last them a week. Laura the lion keeper took us to see the lions. we fed them small pieces of red meat with tongs if they responded to hand signals. We went into the lions indoor pens and got started cleaning. First we removed all the wet sawdust and dirty straw. Next we scrubbed the water bowl and floors then finally put clean bedding and swept up.

libby ramsden x

Day 3 – young ranger academy


Day 3 began earlier than normal, at 8:30, in order to have time to complete more practical than normal. We began in the Baboon enclosure bright and early and fed them the food we had prepared to day before, whilst they were enjoying their breakfast, we got busy cleaning the outside pen. There was poo picking, window cleaning, fence checking and raking to do. Once that was completed and we were sure the doors were locked, the baboons were released outside, with Romulus the dominant leading. We got started cleaning inside, there was a full clean to do. Firstly removing all the straw and sawdust and  remaining food. We scrubbed the walls and climbing shelves with brushes and sprayed it with the hosepipe. Then left it to dry before returning later to fill with straw again.

We returned to the classroom and we learnt all about hoofstock. At yorkshire wildlife park there is lots of hoofstock including Camels, Giraffes, Lechwe, Addax and more.

In the afternoon, we got busy picking nettles from the field, 5 bin bags full! After a lot of hardwork carrying the bags the whole length of the park to the Giraffe enclosure. We filled mesh balls with the nettles and hung them up for the Giraffes to enjoy. But then it came to the dirty work. We got stuck in picking up all the poo and sweeping the sandy substrate then filling it back up with straw again.

Libby ramsden x 


Day 2 – young ranger academy


Day 2 in the young ranger academy at yorkshire wildlife park, was another packed day full of knowledge and fun practical.  The day started off with the theory side of things, learning about enrichment and enclosure design and how yorkshire wildlife parks enclosures are specially adapted, for example the the Baboon enclosure has a half pipe around the top of the fence to ensure they cannot climb over. We designed a giraffe enclouse with all the different aspects needed.

After lunch, we prepared the morning feed for then Marmosets and Baboons. The marmosets food needed to be chopped up into smaller pieces for them to consume, they also require a jelly or gum that is similar to the sap in the trees that they would find in the wild. The jelly or gum smells like the foam bananna sweets , love it.The Baboons eat a lot more vegetable and leafy greens because they require more protein from the leaves, they also eat old world monkey pellets. 

To give enrichment, we made parcels from rice paper full of seeds and pellets, we threw them in the baboon enclosure and observed them rip them open and carefully pick the seeds out. They are very intelectual animals. We also carved pumpkins and filled them with mealworms and put them in the meerkat enclosure, they were so inquisitive and got in the pumpkin straight away. The day ended and we were ready for an even earlier start the next morning.

Libby Ramsden x