Forsten's tortoise is a medium-sized, yellowish tortoise (2). The smooth carapace varies from caramel with black blotches to all-black (2). Males have longer tails than females; they also have a narrower shape and have a more concave plastron(2). During the breeding season, the usually yellow head develops a pinkish tinge around the large eyes (2). This species was previously confused with the Travancore tortoise (I. travancorica), but the two tortoises are now recognised as separate species (2).
Forsten's tortoises are most active at dawn and dusk, foraging for a mixture of fruits, leaves, worms and slugs (2). Pairs engage in a relatively aggressive courtship, when the male will often ram his mate and bite her head and legs (2). The female lays a clutch of one to four eggs in a flask-shaped nest in the soil, covering up the eggs by scraping soil back over the hole with her back legs and then flattening it (2).
The destruction of habitat on the islands of Sulawesi and Halmahera is greatly threatening the survival of this tortoise, which has a highly restricted range (2). In addition, tortoises are hunted both for their meat and to supply the pet trade (1).
International trade in Forsten's tortoise is restricted by its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3). More effective protection of both its habitat and its population is required however, if the future of this Asian tortoise is to be secured.
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