Egyptian Tortoise

Testudo kleinmanni

Order: Testudinae

This species is also called Kleinmann’s tortoise.

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Minimum size enclosure 2 feet long, 2 feet wide and 2 feet tall.
  • Furniture: a hide in which individuals can partially burrow into the sandy substrate is recommended. Regardless, a hide or tunnel in which individuals can completely retreat from the heat and UV lists is required. Rocks and plants can also be included.
  • Water: tortoises will drink deeply when presented with water, and once weekly soakings in a shallow basin encourages tortoises to expel waste.
  • Temperature, Humidity, & Lighting:
    • Temperature: temperature gradient of 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit; 100 degrees at a basking spot. The temperature may drop into the 70s during the night-time.
    • Humidity: ambient humidity levels should be kept low to prevent respiratory issues, but hide humidity levels may be kept higher. Some facilities have not had any respiratory issues, but precautions should be made.
    • Lighting: UVB lamps are required in addition to heat lamps. Day/night cycle is 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.
  • Substrate: 2-3 inches of sand/soil mix, sand or clay as substrate

Diet Requirements

  • Leafy greens — romaine, escarole, endive, red leaf lettuce, dandelion, arugula (rocket)
  • Wild grasses and weeds (e.g. dandelion, plantain, clover) can be offered as enrichment
  • When given a produce-based diet, grass and/or hay should be regularly offered to increase the fiber content of the diet.
  • Vitamin and calcium supplements are also recommended, where calcium supplementation is especially important (3:1, calcium to phosphorus ratio)

Veterinary Concerns

  • This species is susceptible to metabolic bone disease, pyramiding, and respiratory infections.
  • Males can become quite amorous towards females, so separating them is important.
  • Greens that are high in oxalic acid, such as rhubarb, chives, parsley and spinach, are exceptionally hazardous to Egyptian tortoises. Oxalic acid binds with calcium to form calcium oxalate. This not only reduces the available calcium, but the way the Egyptian tortoise kidney works, it concentrates the solid, which will lead to kidney or bladder stones. This has lead to the death of many Egyptian tortoises.

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Check out the Reptelligence Facebook page and Reptelligence website for enrichment and training inspiration.
  • Advancing Herpetological Husbandry July 2018 Quarterly Newsletter- Article Environmental Enrichment for Reptiles By Charlotte James
  • Individuals should be handled often. Tortoises used as program animals should be calm when handled and remain calm around adults and children. Individual tortoises vary greatly in personality; some are significantly more bold and sociable than others. Frequent handling in non-stressful situations should condition shyer animals to become more comfortable on program.
  • Changing the enclosure furniture periodically offers environmental enrichment.
  • Offering a varied diet is also enriching.
  • Once weekly soaks in water can be part of the enrichment program.


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Males and females are sexually dimorphic: females are typically larger than males, the male carapace is more elongated, and the male’s vent is located closer to the tip of the tail.

Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



    • Brandywine Zoo: small reptiles travel in a Coleman “Party Stacker” type cooler that has been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). The cooler is lined with newspaper and, during cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle (wrapped in newspaper)

    cooler     hot water bottle

Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

Potential Messaging

  • Illegal pet trade. In general, animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. Most have specialized dietary, veterinary, housing, and social needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet. Always ensure that your future pet has not been taken from the wild. Capture of wild animals for the pet trade has significantly damaged the survival prospects of species such as sloths, tamanduas, and many parrots. Captured animals are typically mistreated by profit-motivated traffickers and dealers, resulting in many animal deaths; well-meaning animal lovers may feel like they are rescuing animals by purchasing them but are really perpetuating the cruelty. In addition, many exotic pets are released by their owners when they become too dangerous or demanding, often with devastating effects on local ecosystems. Animals that should never be kept as pets include all bats, primates, and exotic carnivores. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should be advised to educate themselves and proceed with caution. Domestic dogs and cats are almost always the best option! Many deserving animals are available for adoption at animal shelters.
  • Habitat loss. Desert and Dryland species have specific adaptations for the temperature and water availability in their natural habitat and may not be able to adjust to the drying effects of climate change. Hotter conditions promote wildfires. More extreme drought conditions kill plants that hold the soil in place and occasional extreme rain events wash that soil away preventing them from growing back in a process called desertification. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere. Please ask guests to walk, bike, or take public transportation when possible and to reduce their use of fossil fuels when they do drive by buying a fuel economic car, carpooling, combining errands, and keeping vehicles properly tuned up and their tires properly inflated. At home and work, purchase Energy Star appliances, turn off lights when they are not in use, and use heaters and air conditioners sparingly. The principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle will also help by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions involved with the manufacture and disposal of unnecessary goods.

Acquisition Information

Listed as Appendix I, which offers the greatest protection within the agreement.

Comments from the Rating System

  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: Excellent educational content, but small size makes presenting for large programs difficult. Overall, great animals.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Deserts/dunes of Libya, Egpyt, and Isreal (but functionally extinct in Egypt east of the Nile)

Physical Description

Small, yellow to greenish terrestrial tortoise, with dark seam markings around each scute on the highly domed carapace. These seams can sometimes be rather broad. Some individuals have dark triangular markings on the pectoral and/or abdominal scute. The tortoise’s most distinctive features, besides its small size, are the two triangular markings on the bottom of its shell, which become more pronounced with age.

Life Cycle

Females mature between 5-7 years in captivity; males mature between 4-6 years in captivity. In the wild, they mature at 7-10 years and 5-7 years, respectively. Females tend to choose nesting sites at the base of dead wood, shrubs, or grass on a slop.


Tortoises aestivate in teh summer in burrows dug by desert rodents when it is too hot. They become active in the winter where their most active period is between December and March (sometimes into April), depending on the year. Their activity is in sync with the desert rains and plant growth.

Threats and Conservation Status

Listed as CITES Appendix I.This is a critically endangered species. Habitat degradation is a concern. They have been collected illegally for the pet trade; as a small tortoise they are highly desirable. They have also been threatened by agricultural pests. Predators include corvids, rats, and cats (who eat the eggs) and dogs (who will eat any size/age tortoise.)

Did you know…

  • The Egyptian tortoise is one of the smallest tortoises in the world


Cover Photo: E.J. PIROG


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Contributors and Citations