Speke's Hinge-back Tortoise

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Bernard DuPont

Species group:

Other common names: Speke’s Hinged Tortoise; Savannah Hinged Tortoise

Scientific name: Kinixys spekii

The basics:
The upgrade of the Speck’s Hinge-back Tortoise from K. belliana subspecies to its own species is a more recent development. They are typically found in sandy or wooded savannas scattered throughout parts of southern Africa. They are a burrowing tortoise.

Appearance / health:
Members of the Kinixys genus all have a hinged rear carapace. Their tail and rear legs can be safely closed off into the shell. The Speke’s Hinge-back Tortoise has a long flat carapace with dark spots in the center of each scute and dark outlining of each scute. Older adults will be more uniformly a dirt brown color. An identifying feature of this species is the flared 5th vertebral scute (those are the scutes running down the center of the shell.) Their skin is yellow-brown and their marginal scutes (the outer edge scutes) do not flare.



Behavior / temperament:
These are active reptiles that need a large amount of space. They are timid and nervous tortoises that need an experienced owner.

The Speke’s Hinge-back Tortoise needs a large enclosure. A space of 15 feet x 10 feet for 2 tortoises is an ideal start. They thrive best outdoors and often are given the run of the yard. However the special care needs of the Bell’s Hinge-back Tortoise make housing this species rather complicated. This tortoise species is not for the pet owner seeking an easy to care for pet. Due to their temperature and humidity requirements they will most likely need to have an extensive indoor habitat in addition to their outdoor yard space. For an indoor habitat, a specially designed tortoise box or tub works best. Outdoor habitats should be well planted with shady bushes and may need misters in the drier climates. Some great plant choices that they can also eat are petunias, hibiscus, aloe vera and a variety of grasses. 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 also provides natural bugs and snails for them to forage on. A plastic sheet can cover part of the outdoor habitat to increase the humidity. They require a pool that they can submerge half way into; they will enjoy a soaking and may even go for a swim.


TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY: They need high humidity and daytime temperatures of 77-82° F.

HIBERNATION / ESTIVATION: These tortoises do not naturally hibernate but they will aestivate if conditions are exceptionally hot and dry.

HEALTH CONCERNS: These tortoises due tend to have medical problems making regular veterinarian care all the more important. Wild caught tortoises do not fare well, they are generally unhealthy; loaded with parasites and dehydrated. Most of them 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 can also suffer from eye problems due to improper humidity levels.

The Speke’s Hinge-back Tortoise is unique in its naturally varied diet. They are natural omnivores eating large amounts of fallen, well ripened fruit, flowers, plants leaves, and dead animals. They will also feast on mushrooms, slugs, and bugs (a bonus for your garden!) Likewise, as a pet, they should be fed a diet that is highly varied. Their diet should consist of fruits such as mangoes, papaya, grapes, and berries, as well as grasses, timothy hay, flowers (roses, hibiscus) dark leafy greens, and the occasional egg. They should get calcium carbonate supplements once a week.

The aggressive nature of hinge-backs males make it risky to house them with other males. Like other tortoises the male will ram, circle, and bite the female as part of the courtship phase.

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