Indotestudo elongata / Elongated tortoise - Care

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Specification Description
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Family: Testudinidae
Scientific name: Indotestudo elongata
Dutch name: Geelkop landschildpad
English name: Elongated tortoise
Dieet: Herbivorous
Distribution: Asia
Reproduction: oviparous / egglaying
Status: Threatened
Cites: B / II

Indotestudo elongata, (Blyth, 1853)

The Indotestudo genus contains only three species, the Forsten's Tortoise (I. forstenii) appearing exclusively on the island of Sulawesi, the Travancore tortoise (I. travancorica) which get found in the southern part of India, in the regions of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala (Western Ghats) and Indotestudo elongata. The I. forstenii and I. elongata occur in our hobby. Indotestudo elongata being the most kept and bred in the hobby.


Status:  Indotestudo elongata is under constant threat and poached out of their natural habitat a lot, primarily for the use as a food but also because of habitat loss. This puts the wild population under severe pressure. All the more important as hobbyists to always opt for offspring and do our best to gather as much information as possible and share. The population Forsten's Tortoise is classified as endangered. This is mainly due to loss of habitat due to agriculture by man. Considering this is an island population does this makes them especially vulnerable. The demand for this turtle as "pets" unfortunately does not help them ether.


General appearance:  This tortoise gets his name from the elongated relatively narrow shield that adult tortoise have. Especially the front marginal (neck) shields on the carapace protrude relatively far from the carapace above the neck. Which is especially evident in males. The shell of young animals is almost wider than long. The carapace of young animals is also relatively low. While it is quite high in adult animals. It's a turtle of medium size that reaches a carapace length of 30cm, adults normally weigh 2.5 to 3.5kg. The carapace is pale brown to tan in colour. The shields can be completely light in colour with a dark core to almost black. The plastron is mostly light to cream coloured with dark spots. The body colour is light. The head is light in colour to yellow. This yellow is the most obvious with males in the mating season. Males have a significantly longer tail and a concave plastron. Both sexes have a sharp scale on the end of the tail. In addition the cloaca of the males is further positioned on the outside of the shell. Where the cloaca of the females is placed near the anal shields.


Origin and habitat:  The Indotestudo elongata has a large distribution in Asia. They occur in southern China, large parts of Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia and in Nepal, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. This species is mainly crepuscular. When temperatures get to high they are not active and they will avoid direct sunlight. They prefer the shade of dense vegetation over open sunny areas. They seem to prefer higher cool mountain forests with lots of vegetation and where possible near water. However, this is highly variable due to their large range. They are also found in warm tropical lowland forests, forest edges and open fields. Although the population density seems lower here, what can be under the influence of the circumstances or because this population is easier to poach. These animals experience two seasons, a hot dry season and a cooler rainy season. Especially in this latter period, the animals appear to be longer, and the most active. Because of the wide distribution of these animals, the natural conditions your elongate will prefer can therefore be very different. Always try to find out in which area your animals originate to mimic the right conditions in the enclosure.


Housing:  Indotestudo elongata can be very intolerant to other tortoises. This could result in pushing and bumping into the shell or biting in limbs like the legs and head which can resemble mating behaviour but must not be mistaken for such behaviour. This behaviour manifests itself against animals from the same species and other species of tortoise. Also this behaviour is not exclusive to males only, but can be observed between females to. So pay attention to the interaction if you house the animals in a group. Provide multiple hiding places and other decoration as trunks and tortoise caves to create visual barriers. If  necessary house these tortoises separately. A single elongated tortoise requires at least 2 square meters and add a, to two square meter for each additional specimen.

As reported this species is mainly active during the twilight period and prefers shade above a lot of sunlight. This means that providing too much light will result in a decreasing of the activity and the animals will hide a lot. A secondary consequence can be watery, swollen or closed eyes. So this is an important point in choosing the lighting and heating type. Basking spot heating lamps mimic the radiant heat of the sun. As these animals do normally not bask this is maybe not the best option. The best one can choose is to heat one side of the enclosure with one or more ceramic emitters. These do not give off light but heat a large area very evenly. Another advantage is that they can also be used at night in order to prevent too low temperatures. Place flat stones under these ceramic infrared heaters. These will absorb the heat and will keep the warmth during the evening. Illuminate 12 hours per day with a low wattage daylight fluorescent tube with a medium UVB output. Heat the hot side to an average of 28C with a cool side of 25-24C. The hotspot can measure higher temperatures. This hotspot must always be able to be avoided by the occupants of the terrarium. The night temperature should not drop below 20C regardless of the season. In the night, the humidity rises due to the falling temperature. In these times extra heating can cause a drop in humidity. To prevent this you can mist just before the lights go out. Make sure there are enough hides for the animals to hide under.

Provide them with a thick layer of substrate like coco earth possibly mixed with dry leaves and moss or bark. You can also use for example reptibark or cypress mulch. All of these substrates take up moisture and help to maintain the level of humidity needed. Dig several trunks and boulders into the substrate in order to decorate the enclosure and provide them with enrichment. A fit tortoise has no problem to move around and over these barriers. This is a good workout for the muscles and part of the enrichment. Make sure a flipped tortoise cannot get stuck somewhere.

Mist regularly and maintain a humidity of 80% which increases at night. Provide a shallow water dish where the animals have access to fresh / clean water at all times. Make sure they can fully go into the water bath in case they want to cool off and hydrate. Please note that tortoises often secrete in their waterbowl so clean it regularly.

As temperatures permit you can place these tortoises in an outdoor enclosure. This is possible if the temperature does not drop below 15 degrees at night and always provide them with an additional (night)shed that is heated. Consider carefully the placement of the outdoor enclosure because of the sun. You can plant (fruit) trees in the enclosure. These provide shade and give the turtles the opportunity to avoid the direct sunlight if they wish to. In addition the tortoises will feed on any fallen fruit and this can add to a varied diet.


Diet:  Always offer food from a low feeding bowl or flat stone. This prevents the food gets to dirty from the ground cover. Variation is probably the most important thing when feeding your tortoise. 80% leafy vegetables, herbs and a low amount of pulses and maximum 20% fruits. Low amount of animal matter will be eaten but do not feed these items more then ones a week till month. In the base are several leafy vegetables like endive, pak choy, endive, and romaine. Then you can vary with tomato, carrots, figs, zucchini, some edible mushrooms and fungi, bell peppers, prickly pear without spines, palm leaf, dandelion (leaf and flower) alfalfa, clover, strawberry, plantain and a small degree of legumes like beans. Foliage and flowers of fruit trees and hibiscus and fruit as banana, apple, mango, strawberry’s etc. Avoid citrus and do not feed them with cabbage in connection with gas formation. At most, a low degree of Chinese cabbage.

You can supplement the diet with a small amount of animal materials. Remember that tortoises are not good and fast hunters. So the animals they eat are slowly crawling invertebrates like worms, mealworms and equal or accidentally carrion. In addition to the worms and mealworms can also feed them with materials as snails with house, beef heart pieces waxmothlarve, morioworms, grasshoppers and (pieces of) chicks or mouse.

Feed young animals, 4 to 6 times per week. Add to this feed twice weekly a calcium supplement and once a week and vitamin supplement specifically for tortoises. Adult animals can be fed 3 times a week. Make sure there is Vitamin D3 added to their supplements because of the lower amount of UVB they are exposed to. 

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