HABITAT: A sand dune species, requiring high day temperatures, cooler night temperatures and low humidity.
RANGE: North Africa from Libya to southern Israel. In Egypt it is restricted to the region of the Suez Canal and northwestern deserts of the Nile delta.
FEATURES: This is a very small tortoise with females reaching a carapace length of about five inches and males about four. The carapace is highly domed of a pale yellowish colour often with black edge markings. The plastron is yellow except for a single dark blotch on both abdominal scutes in specimen from Libya. The nuchal scute is large, the beak is tri-cuspid (it has three sharp projections). The fore limbs have large scales and are yellow, like the head. The eyes are black; each heel has a conical spur-like tubercle. The animal has a divided supracaudal and a moveable hind plastron.
Mating takes place in September/October with the male emitting high pitched sounds. Clutches of small eggs are laid in May/June; incubate under high temperature and low humidity. Hatchlings, which are totally yellow, emerge after 12-16 weeks.
FEEDING: Native: on plants of low ground cover including cacti.
Captive: the animals accept any green edible plant and a variety of fruits, especially exotic fruits.
CAPTIVE HUSBANDRY NOTES:
Although low night temperatures are acceptable, the animals only feed when sufficiently heated up and a vivarium with thermostatic control and a heatlamp is necessary. Provide bathing facilities at least twice weekly. The animals are susceptible to draughts and an outdoor enclosure should provide windcover. A large dish of budgie sand in a corner of the vivarium and various rocks and cacti plants provide a suitable home environment. Provide a few weeks of higher humidity each year by spraying the rocks and sand to imitate the "wet season" of their natural habitat. The animals appear to go sluggish during the shorter days of winter and a short period of rest can be safely undertaken.