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Burmese Mountain Tortoise

Burmese Mountain Tortoise Care Sheet

The Burmese mountain tortoise is a critically endangered species in the wild, that has been successfully bred by tortoise/turtle breeders. This has helped in many ways as it helps cut down on the illegal trading of the species.

If you want to keep the Burmese mountain tortoise as a pet, it is imperative that you acquire a captive-bred specimen. You can get one from our partner at CB Reptile. Not only are captive-breeds easier to care for, but they are also healthier and generally lack endoparasites.

Among tortoises, this chelonian is relatively simple to maintain although they are the fourth largest tortoise in the world. Pet Burmese mountain tortoises can reach weights of 100 pounds and lengths of two feet.

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Scientific Name: Manouria emys
  • Other Names: Asian forest tortoise, Asian brown tortoise
  • Average Adult Length: 19.69 to 23.62 inches (500 to 600 mm)
  • Average Adult Mass: 44.05 to 81.50 lb (20 to 37 kg)
  • Lifespan: 20 years in captivity, 150 years in the wild
  • Clutch Size: 21 to 53 eggs
  • Egg Incubation Period: 63-84 days
  • Food: Leafy greens, fruits such as berries & melons, and insects
  • Average Temperature: 55 F to 85 F
  • UVB Lighting: Needed
  • Average Price Range: $450 – $850
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered on IUCN Red List

Facts and Information

Asian forest tortoise on straw
Asian forest tortoise on straw

The Burmese Mountain Tortoise is also known as the Asian forest tortoise or the Asian brown tortoise. This large tortoise is endemic to southern and southeast Asia in particular India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand. The binomial name of this tortoise is Manouria emys.

There are actually two subspecies of the Manouria emys – the Burmese brown mountain tortoise (M. e. emys) and the Burmese black mountain tortoise (M. e. phayrei).

They are actually the largest tortoise in mainland Asia. They possess the quintessential appearance of a tortoise. Their dark carapace and skin lack any colorful markings.

Burmese Mountain Tortoise Habitat

Burmese Mountain Tortoises live in moist temperate regions (in particular mountainous tropical forests) where temperatures are 55 F to 85 F and humidity levels are 60 to 100 percent.

They prefer to spend most of their time on the forest floor obscured by foliage. They are never found far from a water body.

Enclosure

The Burmese mountain tortoises rise in popularity means that we know more about how to properly care for it. This tortoise species is easy to care for as far as the temperature and humidity levels are right.

The first thing you need to take care of is the enclosure size and type. Because of the tiny size of hatchlings, many keepers prefer to keep young ones inside, where they can better control the temperature and humidity.

Since hatchlings and yearlings must maintain a body temperature over 65 F, I recommend housing them indoors. Hatchlings and younglings can be kept in 20 to 40-gallon aquariums, but a wooden vivarium or a Rubbermaid tube is the best type of indoor enclosure.

As the chelonian grows in size so should the size of its enclosure. For an adult, both the enclosure width and length should be about 10 times the length of the tortoise. A 12×12 feet (144 sq ft) pen should be large enough to house a single adult or 2 adults. A community habitat should be at least 400 sq ft in size.

For decor you can provide hollow logs, and partially buried terracotta pots that are on their sides. Plants such as hostas provide cover and hiding spots for the tortoise.

This helps keep the tortoise relaxed and stress free. The terracotta pots can be filled with damp moss to help provide the tortoise with a humid box. This is essential, especially for young.

Substrate

Since they require high humidity levels, the substrate used has to hold a lot of moisture. There is a lot to choose from including a mix of peat moss, cypress mulch, beaked moss, fir, and sphagnum moss. Don’t be surprised if the tortoise eats the moss.

Temperature

While the natural habitat of the Burmese mountain tortoise has a temperature range of 55 to 75 F, try and provide a relatively warm enclosure. The cool end of the enclosure should be about 70 F.

If necessary cover the cool end of the enclosure to achieve this temperature. The warm ends which feature the basking spot should have a temperature of 85 F. If you have a youngling in the enclosure, temperatures must not fall below 65 F.

If necessary install ceramic heat lamps and regulate their temperature with a thermostat. Mercury vapor lamps are another option that work well.

You can and should check the temperatures in the enclosure from time to time. This will help you keep track of things. This is important especially if it is your first pet tortoise.

Lighting

As animals that inhabit the floors of dense tropical forests, the Burmese mountain tortoise doesn’t receive a lot of sunlight in the wild. When kept outdoors make sure to provide sufficient shade for all the tortoises in the enclosure.

There should also be sufficient exposure to sunlight within the enclosure. For Burmese mountain tortoises housed inside, install a UV bulb with a UVB percentage of 5 such as the floreschent style Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0 or standard bulb style like the Exo Terra Repti-Glo 5.0.

The lights should be on for about 10-12 hours every day. This is to mimic the natural light cycle. Change the bulb/tube every 6 months. You can test them before changing using UVB test cards.

Humidity

There are several ways to keep the indoor enclosures humid enough for the tortoise. As you may have already guessed, this tortoise requires very humid closures.

The humidity level should be around 80 percent. Mist small enclosures daily. Sometimes, even twice a day if necessary.

For really large enclosures, misting isn’t efficient enough to maintain the high humidity levels needed. A large misting system or reptile enclosure fogger (possibly multiple depending on size) may be needed in this case.

Keeping a shallow water bowl is a great way to increase humidity. The bowl should be shallow enough for the tortoise to easily enter and exit it.

Feeding the Burmese Mountain Tortoise

Burmese Mountain Tortoise eating lettuce
Burmese Mountain Tortoise eating lettuce

Burmese Mountain Tortoises are generally omnivorous although 10 to 15 percent of their diets should be composed of animal matter. Fruits should make up about 10 percent.

As you can see, most of the diet should be made up of leafy greens and flowers, mushrooms, and other vegetation.

Some excellent foods to feed the tortoise include dandelion (both leaves and flowers), hibiscus, paprika, palm leaves, Opuntia cacti, Pak Choy (bok choy), nettle, thistle, romaine lettuce, zucchini, bell pepper, grated carrot, chicory, tomatoes, endive and many more.

You can also add mushrooms and fungi to their diet. They enjoy these. Fruits to feed them include melon, pear, banana, and even mango. Feed them fruits only occasionally as they are high in sugar and should only be an occasional treat.

Juveniles especially enjoy animal matter as well. These include bits of lean meat such as chicken, beef heart, pinkie mice, mealworms, superworms, just an examples.

To prevent nutritional MBD, dust the plants fed to the tortoise with calcium and vitamin D3 powder.

Don’t overdo this as it can lead to other complications. I recommend Repta Calcium (with Vitamin D3).

Burmese Mountain Tortoise Temperament & Handling

As with most tortoises, the Burmese mountain tortoise is slow and deliberate in its actions. Everything is done slowly and they are hardly ever in a rush.

They are generally eager to eat and curious when it comes to food. They don’t bite and if they ever do then it’s a mistake.

Hatchlings are very shy which is down to innate survival instincts. In the wild, Burmese mountain tortoises are most vulnerable as juveniles.

Burmese Mountain Tortoise Lifespan

Asian brown tortoise recessed in shell
Asian brown tortoise recessed in shell

With proper care, the Burmese mountain tortoise can and will most likely outlive its keeper. In the wild, they have an average lifespan of 150 years and can surpass that age.

Captive-bred specimens have an average lifespan of just 20 years. However, with the rise in captive breeding and care, you can expect young Burmese mountain tortoises to live well into the next century (2100 and beyond).

Common Health Concerns

In fact, very little is known about the health issues of captive Burmese mountain tortoises as they are still relatively new to captivity. It is safe to assume that they suffer from health issues that affect other tortoises.

These include injuries, endoparasites, and shell pyramiding. Some health issues common in wild-caught specimens include the following.

Refusal to eat (no appetite) – Healthy Manouria emys love to eat. They eagerly accept most foods offered to them. If the chelonian isn’t eating then there is something seriously wrong. Consult a herp vet.

Dehydration – A large portion of wild-caught Manouria emys specimens are dehydrated and severely so. The only course of treatment is professional help. The vet and you must work hand in hand to return the dehydrated tortoise to health.

Endoparasites can cause GI (gastrointestinal) stasis and GI blockage among poorly cared for tortoises. Parasites among wild-caught are common and there are usually a lot.

Burmese mountain tortoises aren’t known to have any common health issue. They are generally healthy and hardy.

Pricing and Availability

Burmese mountain tortoises are not as easy to find as other tortoises. However, they are growing in popularity. This is mainly down to successful captive breeding.

They are still quite expensive to acquire. Regardless of the price, always try to acquire a captive-bred specimen. Expect to pay $450 to $850 for a captive-bred specimen.  

You can buy one from our partner at CB Reptile. Both Brown and Black are available.

Conservation/Threats

The Burmese mountain tortoise (Manouria emys) is a critically endangered species. Their wild populations are decreasing. The main threats to the species come from human activities.

They are gathered by local hunters for meat as well as or export. In addition to this agriculture, wildfires, as well as infrastructure development, has led to the shrinking of the tortoise’s natural habitat.

The Manouria emys is included in CITES Appendix II. They are also protected under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, Wildlife Conservation Act (2010) in Malaysia, Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act (1992) in Thailand, and domestic legislation in Myanmar.

Wildlife sanctuary and parks in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Thailand (such as the Ngengpui Wildlife Sanctuary, Rakhine Yoma Elephant Sanctuary, and Kaeng Krachan National Park) support wild populations.

Conclusion

The Burmese mountain tortoise is an interesting tortoise species. While they may not be as colorfully marked as other more ornate tortoises, they are a gentle and eager tortoise.

They don’t mind human attention and are eager to eat. You can expect them to approach you whenever you are close once they get used to your presence. They are also simple to care for as long as you get the humidity and temperature of the enclosure right.

Keeping this tortoise as a pet is a lifelong activity. Even though most owners love their pet Burmese mountain tortoise, they still need to consider the fact that, the tortoise will probably live longer. As such the preparations need to be made for when you’re no longer around.

If you have any questions or extra information feel free to leave a comment.

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