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For tortoise, terrapin and turtle care and conservation


Bell's Hinge-back Tortoise

Home's Hinge-back Tortoise

The Serrated Hinge-back Tortoise


Bell's Hinge-back Tortoise

HABITAT: It has a wide range in tropical-subtropical Africa and occurs in savanna habitats (plains or grasslands with scattered trees with seasonal rains, but not in desert, semi-desert or forest regions).

SUBSPECIES: Five subspecies appear to be recognised:

1. The Eastern Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys belliana belliana)

RANGE: East Africa from northeastern Zaire to Ethiopia and Somalia to Uganda and western Kenya

2. The Lobatse Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys belliana lobatsiana)

RANGE: northeastern Republic of South Africa into southeastern Botswana.

3. The Western Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys belliana nogueyi)

RANGE: western Africa, from Senegal to Cameroon to the Central African Republic.

4. Speke's Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys belliana spekii)

RANGE: Kenya south to northeastern Republic of South Africa and Swaziland, west to southeastern Zaire, Zambia and northern Botswana.

5. The Southeastern Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys belliana zombensis)

RANGE: Northeastern Tanzania south to Zululand, Madagaskar.


The Hinge-back Tortoises have a hinge across the rear portion of the carapace, which slopes down steeply from the middle of the fifth vertebra. The belliana species have a smoothly rounded although elongated carapace which lacks the angularity of the Home's Hinge-back and the Serrated Hinge-back Tortoises. Those with deeper shells usually live in open savanna, those with depressed shells live in rocky terrain. The Eastern Hinge-back is five-clawed; the Western Hinge-back is four-clawed. The maximum length is about 10" and the colouration is variable from a light tan to a yellow, brown and black pattern. They occur in regions where summers are hot with seasonal rains, and winters are mild and dry. In the extremes of the range the night winter temperatures may drop to a dry 32 degrees Fahrenheit (= 0 degrees Celsius). The Bell's Hinge- back Tortoises become active before and during rain and inactive when the climate is dry. The mating season accours during the wet season (November to February) and the main egg laying season also occurs during this period. Clutches of 1 to 3 eggs are laid and hatch under humid conditions. The young show no trace of the hinge.


Native: A variety of insects, millipedes, snails, slugs, dead frogs and tadpoles are eaten and a wide variety of vegetation, fruit and even fungi.

Captive: The following foods can be tried: lettuce, spinach, caulifower, broccoli, beans, carrots (some of these may require cooking to soften them.) Try also clover, dandelion, plantain, cress, carrots and carrot tops, mushrooms, banana, melon, tomato, cucumber, peach, grapes and other soft fruits. Millipedes, snails, slugs, mealworms, small partially cooked fish, beetles, earthworms, crickets and other insects may be eaten. Some will eat scambled egg with alfalfa sprouts mixed in, tinned dog and cat food, chopped pieces of liver and meat. It is important that the animals have a balanced diet of 50% vegetables and fruit and 50% meat. The young are almost exclusively carnivorous. Use a good vitamin and mineral supplement at all times. The animals do not hibernate. In their native country these tortoises will eastivate during the dry part of the summer. Imitation of their natural habitat is not recommended.


As a tropical tortoise the Hinge-back Tortoise should be kept in a vivarium at a temperature above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 degrees Celsius) for most of the time. Provide a basking light and a shady area with some plants and a shelter, as well as access to a large tray or bowl with clean water for drinking and soaking. Algae may form in the water; a safe product for the prevention of algae can be obtained from aquaria shops, or the vessel can be cleaned with a mixture of warm water to which vinegar, salt or lemon juice is added. Natural sunlight is essential but in Britain the animal can only be put outside during hot summer days. As it likes humidity it must be sprayed occcasionally and be given a luke warm bath at least twice a week. Most of the information including that on habitat, applies to the other two Kinixys species, the Home's Hinge-back Tortoises and the Serrated Hinge-back Tortoise.


HABITAT: See the Bell's Hinge-back Tortoise RANGE: Liberia to Cameroon and eastern Zaire

FEATURES: The rear part of the carapace is completely vertical from the anterior part of the last vertebral. The length is about eight inches, colouration is yellowish brown.


HABITAT: See Bell's Hinge-back Tortoise

RANGE: Gambia to Republic of the Congo and Uganda.

FEATURES: This is the largest species of the genus with a length of about thirteen inches. It has strikingly flared marginals at the back. The plastron is yellow with brown and black splotches on the scutes. The nuchal scute is absent. The head is yellow and brown, with a single cusped beak. The male's tail carries a spur.