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Indian & Burmese Star Tortoises

- personality & behavior -

Burmese star tortoise, Geochelone platynota

Burmese Star tortoise

Pretty rocks or little charmers?

Some people have described the Indian / Sri Lankan Star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) as having the personality of a rock. Pretty rocks, they say. Auch! Of course, I don't agree with that. :O)

Indian Star tortoises may not be the most outgoing and fearless tortoises, but generally they are charming, sweet and peaceful. Usually, they can be kept in small, mixed gender groups. They do not pick up severe fights with each other or engage in overly aggressive mating rituals. Each tortoise is an individual though. Some are more belligerent than others. Yes, even Stars can bully each other!

Indian vs Burmese

On average, Burmese Star tortoises (Geochelone platynota) seem to be less timid and more active than Indian Star tortoises. Many Burmese Star keepers find them to be very "outgoing." Burmese Stars are quite personable and delightful to keep.

In captivity, Burmese Star tortoises are said to be hardier, easier to breed, and more cold tolerant than Indian / Sri Lankan Star tortoises. Further, Sri Lankans are said to be hardier than mainland Indian Stars.

indian star tortoise geochelone elegans

Indian Star tortoise. Photo courtesy of Philip Chan.

Behavior & personality of my Stars

a.) General

My Burmese and Sri Lankan Star tortoises' behavior and habits seem to be very similar, and they all like or dislike the same foods. All my Stars have adjusted to my routine handling of them, for example, bathing and moving them between indoor and outdoor pens.

b.) When alarmed

When my Burmese and Sri Lankan Star tortoises get alarmed about something in their surroundings, they will pull in their heads and freeze, or just freeze, until they are sure the danger has passed. My Sri Lankans are very quick to pull in their heads and limbs, and stay that way for quite a while. My Burmese often just freeze without hiding their heads when they detect a possible danger, usually a moving person, nearby.

c.) Daily routine

My Burmese and Sri Lankan tortoises are busy wandering and eating mornings and afternoons, and the rest of the day they are often hiding or sleeping. When the Stars are not eating or basking, they all like to tuck away under plants or in other hiding places. My grown up "Burma boys" are the exception. They are the most active ones of the bunch and can patrol their yard all day long weather permitting. :O)

d.) Climbing

My adult Stars rarely try to climb their indoor or outdoor enclosure walls or attempt to escape. They seem to be content where they are. Little babies seem to like to burrow and climb more than adults. In fact, the teeny weeny ones can be quite agile mountain climbers, so do not put any plants or cage furniture too close to the enclosure walls. They could be used as a "staircase" over the wall. For a couple examples, see the outdoor housing page.

e.) No digging

During the spring, summer, and fall my Star tortoises spend their days in outside enclosures. Outdoors, all my Stars have their favorite hiding places. They do not dig into the dirt like my Greeks do. They may scrape the surface of the soil a bit when hiding under a bush, but that's all.

f.) No big self soakers

All my tortoises drink from their indoor and outdoor water bowls occasionally, but they rarely "soak" themselves even if the bowls are large enough. However, they do seem to enjoy the warm soaks I give them. I soak little babies daily and older ones less frequently depending on their age.

g.) Activity level

Among my baby and young Burmese and Sri Lankan Stars, it's not always easy to say if one species is more "outgoing" than the other. Most often, it seems that my Burmese Stars are more active, but sometimes it looks like my Sri Lankans are.

As adults, my Burmese Stars seem to be more active, energetic, and "social." The older they get, the less timid they are. Many adults, especially males, will run to me when I'm near their outdoor pen. Young ones like to hide.

On the other hand, my Sri Lankan adults are very low key. They just rest in hiding or go about their day very leisurely. Not a lot of action. No hurries.

h.) Shy or brave?

I do notice personality differences among individual Star tortoises. Some are just braver and livelier than others, regardless of their species (Burmese or Sri). In general, males are more active than females.

My "shyest" Star tortoise is a Sri Lankan, and she's very, very timid. She will retreat into her shell at the smallest commotion around her. When she realizes it's me holding her, she will push her head out a bit to see what's going on.

My bravest and most trusting Star tortoise is an adult male Burmese Star. He can be quite active, especially outside. Sometimes all day long. He likes to dash around in his outdoor pen checking different places and the available plant buffet, but will stop on his tracks and freeze when there is sudden movement in his visual field.

When I go outside, he often comes running to me. I don't know if he's expecting food (typically ignored at first when given) or being dominant and trying to chase me away from his domain. Or maybe he just wants a head rub which he seems to enjoy. :O)

Update: I have limited space for my tortoises, so I have phased out my Sri Lankan Stars. I did keep one male as a pet though. He's not super active, but he's such a cutie and sweetie. :O)

 

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