Species group: Tortoises
Other common names: Indian Star Tortoise; Indian Starred Tortoise
Scientific name: Geochelone elegans
The Star Tortoise originally comes from parts of Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka. They are found in a wide range of habitats from forests to arid scrub lands. Despite the seemingly vast differences in these habitats they all have a very dry, drought like, season. The Star Tortoise’s population is declining due to illegal capture for the pet trade, habitat loss, and harvesting for food.
Appearance / health:
The Star Tortoise is quite striking with its light yellow skin that contrasts against a dark beautifully patterned shell. The shell is dark brown to black with yellow star patterns on each scute. At the center of each scute is the center of the star with lines radiating away from the center. Each scute is naturally highly pyramided, forming several cones on the carapace. The plastron is more yellow in color with a similar star pattern.
AVERAGE ADULT WEIGHT: 2-15 lbs
AVERAGE ADULT SIZE: 8-13 inches
Behavior / temperament:
These small tortoises can stress easily and do best when kept in groups. Luckily, these shy and timid tortoises have a subtle charming personality that makes it hard to resist adding more to the herd.
Despite the Star Tortoise’s ability to be highly adaptable in the wild they are less so in captivity to the point of being considered fragile by many tortoise keepers. They need an overall dry environment and kept outdoors as much as your local climate allows. For an ideal outdoor enclosure a minimum of 16 square feet of ground space for 1 Star Tortoise is a good start. The ground under them should be well covered with grasses and sand and must be kept dry. They are not burrowing tortoises, which makes building their habitat a bit easier. Furnishings should include natural longs and rocks. They will appreciate shrubs and other places to hide. Heated basking areas will be used often. They should have a shallow pond for soaking and drinking. In climates that become cold and damp or drop below 70 at night a heated and dry indoor enclosure or shelter will also be needed. An outdoor environment is best but due to their unique needs they most likely will need an indoor environment as well. Their indoor set up should most closely resemble their outdoor habitat as much as possible. Be sure to provide a full spectrum light when housed indoors.
LIFESPAN: 50-100 years
TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY: Their day temperatures should range from 75-90° F with a basking spot around 95° F. Night temperatures: 70-75 ° F. They should be provided with a winter season with temperatures kept between 60-70° F and less light during the day. Humidity should never go above 40%.
HIBERNATION / ESTIVATION: The Star Tortoise does not hibernate so they will need their environmental conditions maintained year round.
HEALTH CONCERNS: Keeping a captive Star Tortoise healthy and alive is a great challenge, making them not an ideal pet for the novice turtle keeper. One reason is that they are often infected with internal parasites which can be deadly. They should not be kept with other species; they easily succumb to the viruses and other disease that other species may carry. Other common health problems are usually related to poor diet or an improper living environment. Diets high in protein such as dog or cat foot will cause pyramiding and/or bladder stones. Pyramiding is the overgrowth of carapace scutes. In environments where there is high humidity they can suffer from shell or skin conditions and respiratory infections.
Their natural wild diet consist mostly grasses, flowers, and succulents that are found in their native region. Their captive diet should also be highly plant based and as close to their natural diet as possible. It’s best to plant and feed natural foods which should include naturally growing grasses. Other good choices are hibiscus, clover, dandelion, mulberry, violets, and endive. They can be fed once or twice a week supplemental foods in addition to their naturally growing plants. Supplemental foods can include dark greens, hay, squash, and a reptile vitamin.
Breeding season begins naturally with the rainy season. Breeding in captivity has proven to be difficult. Usually 4 clutches of 2-10 eggs are laid and hatch in 2-3 months.