Burmese Brown Tortoise

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Species group:

Other common names: Asian Brown Tortoise; Burmese Brown Mountain Tortoise (M. emys emys); Burmese Black Tortoise (M. emys phayrei)

Scientific name: Manouria emys

The basics:
The Burmese Brown Tortoise is found in tropical evergreen forests from India to Thailand. They usually stay close to riparian habitats spending the hottest part of the day in mud wallows or shallow ponds.

Appearance / health:
This large tortoise doesn’t have markings that stand out. They are almost uniform in color of dark brown or black with light centers in each scute. They have a highly domed shell and spurs on their rear legs. Despite their common names, color cannot be used to differentiate the two subspecies as there are many variations in color between individuals. Instead a clear method of identification can be found on the plastron or bottom shell. To determine what subspecies you may have take a look at the pectoral scutes on the plastron. These are the triangular shaped scales just under the front legs, they point towards the middle or midline. In M. e. emys the pectoral scutes do not meet in the middle. In M. e. phayrei the pectorals do meet in the meet. Also, at their full adult size M. e. phayei is twice the size of M. e. emys.

AVERAGE ADULT WEIGHT: M. e. emys: up to 44 lbs, M. e. phayrei: up to 80+ lbs

AVERAGE ADULT SIZE: M. e. emys: up to 16 inches, M. e. phayrei: up to 24 inches

Behavior / temperament:
These intelligent tortoises’ favorite pastimes are dancing in the rain and enjoying a good meal. They may take time to warm up to their humans, but once the ‘come out of their shell’ they are a joyful tortoise to own.

If you are considering a Burmese Brown Tortoise as a pet you need to be able to give ample space for these large reptiles. One tortoise should have at least 128 square feet of ground space. They have strict temperature and humidity needs; they will most likely need an outdoor and indoor habitat so they can thrive. Providing sometime outdoors allows them to be exposed to natural sunlight and gives them opportunities for natural foraging. Outdoor habitats should be well planted with shady bushes and may need misters in the drier climates. Mulch, moss, or bark can be used as a substrate, both indoors and out, to help maintain a higher humidity level. . Mulch not only increases the humidity it provides natural bugs and snails for them to forage on. These tortoises like to burrow so they will need an enclosure with underground fencing. They need access to a shallow pool for drinking and soaking. They will enjoy spending hours in a pond or mud wallow.


TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY: The Burmese Brown Tortoise tolerates temperatures in the range of 50-85° F. They are most active at 59-68° F. They require high humidity levels of 60-1000%.

HIBERNATION / ESTIVATION: These tortoises do not hibernate.

HEALTH CONCERNS: Wild caught tortoises do not fare well, they are generally unhealthy; loaded with parasites and dehydrated. Their digestive tract will have shut down from the stress of capture and transport and need to be restarted. Some may survive with months of intense care. Most however, die quickly in captivity. Do make sure you know the source of your pet tortoise and that it is a well bred captive tortoise. These tortoises also tend to suffer from pneumonia and stomatitis. Your reptile veterinarian will be an invaluable resource to you and your tortoise in understanding, treating, and preventing any illnesses.

The natural wild diet of the Burmese Brown Tortoise is primarily plant matter, although they will also feast on snails, insects, and frogs. Their captive diet should also be highly plant based and as close to their natural diet as possible. A large percentage of their diet should be healthy green vegetables and some fruits. Other good choices are hibiscus, clover, dandelion, mulberry, violets, and endive. The occasional snail will be much appreciated.

Females will aggressively guard their nest, and unusual behavior for a tortoise. The nest may contain up to 50 eggs and hatch in 2 -3 months.


fascinating creature, easy pet, fantastic animals


hibernation, grand escapes, broader diet, sharp pointy beak

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