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Angulate Tortoises

- in captivity -

Angulate tortoise (Chersina angulata)

Angulate tortoise (Chersina angulata)

Angulate tortoises in the U.S.

Currently, the Angulate / Angulated tortoise (Chersina angulata), aka Bowsprit tortoise, is one of the more uncommon tortoise species in the U.S. There are very few Angulate tortoise keepers in the U.S., and captive bred Angulates are rarely available.

In the past, large numbers of Angulate tortoises were exported out of Africa. Most of them are said to have died within months due to inability to adjust to the humid conditions in parts of U.S. and Europe. In captivity, Angulate tortoises do well in a Mediterranean type climate (see map).

According to a 2000 Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter (4:8-13), only 368 Angulate tortoises were imported to the U.S. between 1989 and 1997. As a comparison, 11,773 Leopard tortoises and 2,982 Sulcatas were imported during the same time period.

The 2008 International Species Information System database lists Behler Conservation Center, San Diego Zoo, and Detroit Zoological Society as member institutions having Angulate tortoises. The nonprofit Behler Chelonian Center in California maintains many species of turtles and tortoises, for example, the Radiated and Burmese Star tortoises which are critically endangered. They have also successfully bred Angulate tortoises.

Note: In 2000, the U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibited [offsite link] the further importation of certain land tortoises, including Leopards and Sulcatas, because they were harboring exotic ticks known to be vectors of heartwater disease.

Angulate tortoises in Europe

The European Studbook Foundation (ESF) has managed a studbook breeding program for the Angulate tortoise since 1999. During the 1980's and 1990's, several tortoises were imported from South Africa by the ESF and other keepers. Unfortunately, reproduction has been limited and death rate has been high. Due to few participants and low numbers of tortoises in the studbook, ESF discontinued this program in 2009. However, there are several Angulate tortoise keepers and breeders in Europe, especially in Germany, who are not listed in the studbook.

Basic care

I keep my Angulates pretty much the same as my Golden Greeks and Star tortoises with a couple of exceptions.

Food - I grow a variety of succulents for the Angulates to eat. My Stars and Greeks are not super fond of succulents, but my Angulates love them. They eat growing succulents to the ground in no time!

Hiding places - My Golden Greeks love to dig into soil / substrate indoors and outdoors, but my Angulates don't. They like to hide under bushes just like my Stars.

Angulate tortoises can be fairly easy keepers if they are provided with the appropriate diet and suitable environmental conditions. As with most tortoises, Angulates thrive outdoors and are easiest to keep in climate areas that resemble their homeland.

Humidity?

Captive Angulate tortoises are said to be susceptible to respiratory infections, skin infections, and shell rot if they are kept in a too damp environment. According to the traditional care advice, it's best to keep Angulates "bone dry." Some keepers have experienced tragic consequences from raising Angulates too wet and cold. In captivity, constant high humidity is believed to be their "worst enemy."

However, if tortoises are kept too dry, they are prone to chronic dehydration. This can lead to kidney problems and urinary stone formation. Both can be fatal. Baby tortoises can dehydrate especially quickly.

To combat excessive dryness, some Angulate keepers spray their enclosures with water in the morning and then let the substrate dry out during the day. Another solution is to provide both dry and damp substrate areas to allow the tortoise to choose the conditions he needs.

Jasser-Häger and Philippen recommend a higher humidity level for Angulate tortoise hatchlings and youngsters (Testudo mag, 2003). If young ones are kept in too dry conditions, they can become "Toblerone tortoises." This description makes reference to pyramided tortoises with bumpy shell growth. Toblerone is a Swiss chocolate bar shaped like a row of pyramids.

Indoors

When indoors, strong UV lights like mercury vapor bulbs (MVB's) or the new, high output T-5 reptile UVB fluorescent tubes are ideal. MVB's provide both heat and UV, but separate basking bulbs are needed with the T-5 linear (long) tubes. See the lighting page.

Angulate tortoise keepers use various indoor substrates, including soil, soil/coco coir mix, coconut husk, and paper. Jasser-Häger and Philippen recommend newspaper as indoor substrate (Testudo mag, 2003) for Angulate tortoises. Real or artificial plants, or even a pile of hay, can be added for hiding.

Drinking water should be available at all times. Baby Angulate tortoises can be soaked (bathed) daily and then less frequently as they grow.

As mentioned above, some keepers spray the enclosure with water in the morning to simulate native coastal conditions. Just check that the substrate is not constantly soaking wet.

Note: In more recent years, paper has fallen out favor as an indoor tortoise substrate because it's not diggable, does not hold humidity, and provides no microclimates.

Outdoors

Angulate tortoises need large outdoor areas with well draining soil. Avoid substrates that retain too much water and stay wet all the time. Plant food and shade plants in the enclosure and provide various hiding places. A sandy soil area with some flat rocks or large pebbles is perfect for sunbathing.

Always keep a bowl of fresh drinking water available. Replenish the water as needed to keep it clean and cool. I see my Angulates use their outdoor water bowls quite often. When they drink, they drink a lot!

Angulate tortoises, especially males, can be fairly active. In the wild, their activity temperature range has been observed to be 60-85 °F (15-29 °C).

angulate outdoor pen

Angulates are said to be sensitive to constant dampness. Use a well draining substrate.

Angulate / Bowsprit tortoise

Angulates love to hide under bushes and among plants.

Angulate tortoise nesting in the rain

This Angulate is nesting outdoors during a light rain.

Diet

In the wild, Angulate tortoises' diet varies depending on the season and the region where they live. They eat grasses, herbs, annuals, and succulents. Sometimes they also consume snails, mushrooms, insects, and feces of other animals.

In captivity, a herbivorous diet is recommended. Angulate tortoises can be offered the same foods as Indian and Burmese Star tortoises, but their diet should rich in succulents.

Typical food items in captivity include opuntia cactus, various succulents (e.g. sedums, echeveria), weeds (e.g. dandelion, clover, plantain), grasses, flowers (e.g. hibiscus, dandelion, petunia), some grocery store greens (e.g. endive, radicchio, winter dandelion), and possibly a little bit of squash occasionally (butternut, zucchini, pumpkin). Ideally, include plants from their native habitat.

Note: All sedums, except Sedum acre, are generally considered safe for tortoises. Do NOT feed Sedum acre. It's believed to be toxic. Misty Corton also lists Sedum morganianum and Sedum frutescens as unsuitable for Angulate tortoises due to their high oxalate content.

Angulate tortoises' diet should be low in sugar. It may be wise to avoid feeding too much fruit, if any, because large amounts of fruit can promote flagellate (microscopic parasites) proliferation. Some keepers count squashes as vegetables and others as fruit.

Angulate / Angulated tortoise, Chersina angulata

Reaching for more leaves. My Angulates love, love succulents!

angulate tortoise drinking water

Do provide clean drinking water at all times. I see mine use their outdoor water dishes, but not so much inside. They can drink a lot!

Supplements

Misty Corton from South Africa recommends a daily supplementation of vitamins and minerals for juveniles, and a weekly supplementation for adults. Youngsters and egg laying females especially need extra calcium. Keeping cuttlebones in the enclosure provides an additional source of calcium and allows tortoises to control their own calcium intake. See the Star tortoise supplements page.

 

Related pages: Angulate hatchlings and the Star care pages listed in the top right menu

References: books, websites (links)

Unfortunately, info published on Angulates rarely covers captive care, but there are a few caresheets. For example, see the caresheet by Misty Corton (South Africa) and the Jun 2003 issue of Testudo magazine by SIGS (Switzerland). Misty Corton's web page includes a long list of plants these tortoises eat in their native habitat. The Testudo magazine is published in German, but you can copy the text from the pdf file and then translate it online. Also, Thomas Bauer (Germany) describes his captive care and breeding of Angulate tortoises in the book Turtles: Proceedings: International Turtle & Tortoise Symposium.

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