Special Projects - Egyptian Tortoises, Testudo kleinmanni Lortet, 1883
An adult female Egyptian tortoise. Photo by Jerry Fife.
Egyptian tortoises have a limited range about 30 miles wide, from Libya (Tripoli, Cyrenaica) as far as the Nile in Egypt with other isolated populations along the Mediterranean Sea. This is the smallest tortoise in the genus Testudo (and one of the smallest tortoises in the world) with a maximum length of 5.7 inches (14.4 cm). Females grow larger than males and are distinguished by shorter tails.
More than 90 percent of this species’ former habitat has been degraded by overgrazing by camels and goats, massive agriculture projects, and resort development along the shores of Egypt. Goats and livestock eat the same plants and shrubs that the tortoises use for food and shelter. This species has become one of the most threatened tortoise species.
Egyptian tortoises inhabit sandy desert regions, with areas of pebbles and rock and short shrubby vegetation. They experience very little rainfall, consistently high temperatures, and mild winters. They are near enough to the sea to gain some humidity, however are thought of as an arid species which drinks, little, if any, water. These tortoises will dig into the sand, under leaves, or the bases of bushes to protect themselves from extreme temperatures. It is inactive for much of the year, due to cool or hot weather. Though this species does not hibernate, it may be inactive for days at a time when temperatures are either too hot or too cold. The
Egyptian tortoise is classified as Appendix I of C.I.T.E.S.
With the help of the 2010 Phoenix Reptile Expo conservation auction, the TTPG will attempt to develop several assurance colonies of this rare tortoise. The offspring produced from this colony will be available to TTPG members and those interested in working with this small but exciting species.