Elongated tortoise (Indotestudo elongata)

Also known as: pineapple tortoise, red-nosed tortoise, yellow tortoise, yellow-headed tortoise
Synonyms: Geochelone elongate, Testudo elongate, Testudo parallelus
  
French: Tortue À Tête Jaune
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderTestudines
FamilyTestudinidae
GenusIndotestudo (1)
SizeLength: 34 cm (2)
Weight3.5 kg (2)

The elongated tortoise is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The elongated tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) gets its common name from its distinctively long, somewhat narrow shell, called the carapace (4). This shell is a caramel to dark yellowish-brown colour, with black blotches on each scute (2) (4). The head is pale yellow, except during the breeding season when both sexes develop a pink hue around the eyes and nostrils (2) (5).

The male elongated tortoise tends to be narrower than the female, with a shorter tail and a more concave plastron (indented underside of shell). The hind claws of the female are also markedly longer and more curved than those of the male, and are believed to be an adaptation to nest building by the female (2).

The elongated tortoise occurs in tropical southern and Southeast Asia, and is found in parts of northeast India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand and peninsular Malaysia (4) (6) (7).

Typically inhabiting teak forests where the humidity is high, the elongated tortoise has also been observed basking in hot, dry conditions on open ground in India (4) (5).

The elongated tortoise is most active at dawn and dusk, its large eyes well adapted to these low light conditions (5) (6). It is an omnivore, regularly feeding on slugs and worms in addition to green leafy material and fruit (5) (6).

Breeding occurs during the early part of the rainy season (5). Male elongated tortoises engage in very aggressive courtship behaviour, ramming the female and biting her vigorously around the head, neck, and front legs (2).

Prior to laying the eggs, the female will dig a flask-shaped nest 15 to 20 centimetres deep with her back legs. The female will then lay her clutch of two to four eggs into the newly dug nest, before replacing the soil. Three clutches a season are laid when in captivity. The eggs of the elongated tortoise are large, and take 130 to 190 days to hatch (2).

The elongated tortoise is under extreme pressure across most of its range, largely due to it being widely harvested and sold on the Asian food markets (2). It is the most common tortoise to be shipped to the Chinese food markets from Vietnam (2); approximately 100,000 were shipped from Ho Chi Minh City in 1993 (5).

Disregard for international conservation laws is apparent, with the trade in tortoises brisk, highly developed, and probably ignored by many border guards, customs officials, and airline personnel (5).

Like many other tortoise species, the elongated tortoise is also sold as part of the pet trade, with nearly 700 sold to the USA alone from 1989 to 1997. It is also threatened by the habitat destruction that accompanies human commercial and residential expansion (6).

This species has been placed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates its legal international trade (2).

Unfortunately, evident disregard for this law demonstrates that there is a desperate need for greater enforcement of protective legislation (5) (6).

Captive breeding programmes seem an essential conservation measure, and elongated tortoises fortunately have reproduced successfully in captivity (5) (6). Captive populations can be managed to maintain a varied gene pool, and provide possibilities for future reintroduction into the wild (6). However, before reintroduction of captive bred tortoises can be properly considered, the larger issues of international trade, disregard for protective legislation, and habitat degradation must be addressed (5).

For further information on the elongated tortoise see:

Authenticated (17/10/11) by Olivier S.G. Pauwels, Research Associate at the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium.
http://www.pauwelsolivier.com/

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. World Chelonian Trust (October, 2005)
    http://www.chelonia.org/Articles/elongatacare.htm
  3. CITES (October, 2005)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. McCormick, B. (1992) The elongated tortoise, Indotestudo elongata. Tortuga Gazette, 28(3): 1-3. Available at:
    http://www.tortoise.org/archives/elongata.html
  5. Tortoise Trust (October, 2005)
    http://www.tortoisetrust.org/
  6. Turtle Survival Alliance (October, 2005)
    http://www.turtlesurvival.org/
  7. The Reptile Database (October, 2011)
    http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Indotestudo&species=elongata&search_param=%28%28taxon%3D%27Testudinidae%27%29%29