Chelonians and their food

Chelonian type

Food type

Turtles and terrapins (especially aquatic)
Earthworm, small whole fish, pinkies, green leafy vegetation

Flowers, succulents, grass, cucumber, frozen mixed vegetable, fresh fruit




Important legal note


An Article 10 certificate is needed for sale of Annexe A species

There are two types of Article 10 certificate. One type is called a ‘Transaction Specific Certificate’ (TSC) that may only be used by the person named and from the address on it. The other type is called a ‘Specimen Specific Certificate’ (SSC), and may be used by anybody in possession of the specimen.

They must be microchipped once over 10cm long

Annexe A – T.graeca, T.hermani

Annexe B – T.horsefieldi

Spur-thighed (Greek) tortoise - Testudo graeca

Several ‘races’ which experts can differentiate

Sub-species, T.g.graeca, ibera, terrestris, zarudnyi

Hinged plastron, Spurs on thighs

Dryer habitat, inland all around the Southern & Eastern Med.

Now introduced right round the Med

Hermann’s tortoiseTestudo hermanni, two subspecies

Suggested that adults are flatter than graeca?

Yellower shell and darker markings

Supra-caudal scute usually divided

Spur on tail tip, Plastron NOT hinged, No spurs on thighs

Cold hardy and tolerate damp (they live along the coast of the Northern Med)

Horsfield’s (Russian) tortoise Testudo horsfieldi

Considered it may even be in a different genus - Agrionemys

More circular, Stocky, Greenish/brown shell, Spur on tail tip (smaller than Hermanns), 4 toes on each foot (Greek and Hermanns have 5 on front)

Very climate tolerant, but some hibernate for long periods. Prefer dry environment

Males are aggressive and will bite – they ‘ram’ less than other species males so females are ? Less used to it!

General Keeping

  • Appropriate Temperature Range (ATR)
  • Most bask to achieve this
  • In the region 20-32oC
  • Inactive below 15oC

Heat from below is to be discouraged for tortoises, the gut is on the floor of the abdomen in contact with the plastron and may be adversely affected

  • They naturally bask so heat lamps are best
  • Mount pads on the side
  • Must be thermostatically controlled


  • Hibernate if maintained at 5-10oC
  • Jackson ratio over 4.5
  • Don’t allow them to lose
  • > 8-10% of body weight
  • Short hibernations are beneficial even for juveniles PROVIDED that this is in a proper temperature controlled hibernaculum


Microchipping is an excellent way of identifying tortoises. All live Annexe A tortoises need to be microchipped to be able to be registered for a CITES specimen specific certificate which allows them to be sold. Any such tortoise over 10cm must be chipped to be legally sold OR DISPLAYED. ALWAYS CONSULT THE DEFRA WEBSITE (BELOW) FOR UPDATES ON THIS.

The species currently under CITES appendix A are (but check with DEFRA yourself, this may go out of date):

Galapagos giant tortoise Geochelone nigra or Geochelone elephantopus
Radiated tortoise Geochelone radiata
Angonoka   Geochelone yniphora
Bolson tortoise Gopherus flavomarginatus
Berger's cape tortoise Homopus bergeri
Pancake tortoise Malacochersus tornieri
Geometric tortoise Psammobates geometricus
Madagascar flat-shelled tortoise Pyxis planicauda
Madagascar spider tortoise Pyxis arachnoides
Spur-thighed tortoise Testudo graeca
Hermann's tortoise Testudo hermanni
Egyptian tortoise Testudo kleinmanni
Marginated tortoise Testudo marginata
Negev tortoise Testudo wernei

You do not need CITES paperwork to possess one of these but if you pass it to a sanctuary/zoo which is open to the public they will not be able to display it or put in perhaps with others on display unless you obtain this paperwork.


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