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Egyptian Tortoise (Kleinmann’s Tortoise)

Egyptian Tortoise Care Guide

If you’re in the market for a tortoise that’s really cute and stays tiny, the Egyptian Tortoise, also known as Kleinmann’s Tortoise, might be the one for you!

The sad thing about these tortoises is that they are critically endangered due to habitat loss and unsustainable exploitation by dealers who ship them abroad for financial gain.

They say that about 7,500 remain in the world but that it might have been greatly reduced by the illegal pet trade so if you are considering getting this tortoise, please do take very good care of it.

Although it is illegal to import these tortoises into the United States, it does not mean they won’t try. We just have to hope that they fall into the right hands, will be well taken care of, and hopefully put into captive breeding programs to repopulate the species.

We also hope that illegal pet traders will find a more sustainable way to make money other than collecting animals for the pet trade.

Egyptian tortoise in the wild on rocks
Egyptian tortoise in the wild on rocks

If you just want an Egyptian Tortoise as a pet, remember how they are being affected by the illegal pet trade, meaning you should find a local breeder where they are certified and selling only captive-bred tortoises, doing the extra research to make sure this isn’t just for profit.

Before you purchase an Egyptian Tortoise, we hope you are fully prepared to give it the best life you can.

In this article, you will learn more about this wonderful tortoise as well as how to care for it properly.

The Egyptian Tortoise Quick Reference Section

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Scientific Name: Testudo kleinmanni
  • Alternate Name(s): Kleinmann’s Tortoise, Leith’s Tortoise, The Negev Tortoise
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches (depending on sex; females are usually larger)
  • Weight: 160 to 350 grams
  • Diet: Herbivorous
  • Lifespan: 70 to 100 years (with proper care)
  • Where to buy: Tortoisetown.com, CBreptile.com

Quick Egyptian Tortoise Facts

Egyptian Tortoise
Egyptioan tortoise also known as the kleinmann’s tortoise on sand with black background
  • They were once a widespread species, but they have become nearly extinct in Egypt and can only be found in only a few regions of Libya.
  • The Egyptian Tortoise is the second smallest tortoise just after the South African Speckled Padloper.
  • Their color slows the amount of heat they absorb since they are so tiny and can warm up too quickly due to their size.
  • They are land-dwellers.
  • They are neck-hiding tortoises, meaning they can duck into their shell for safety.

Egyptian Tortoise Appearance

The Egyptian Tortoise is a small, pale yellow with gold or brown coloration around the patterns on their carapace. 

This coloration helps them deflect the sun’s heat and absorb less light so that their little bodies don’t warm up while they are roaming the lands. 

Their color can also be used as camouflage in the sand or rocks of their natural habitat, allowing them to hide from predators.

Females will be a bit larger than males, who will also come with longer tails. 

Egyptian Tortoise Location and Natural Habitat

endangered egyptian tortoise sleeping in sand under some rocks
endangered egyptian tortoise sleeping in sand under some rocks

Egyptian Tortoises are native to Egypt, Libya, and Isreal.

Their range used to be more widespread, extending into southern Palestine, but their population is decreasing quickly due to the illegal pet trade as well as habitat loss they are suffering.

Since they have become nearly extinct in Egypt, they can now only be found in only a few regions of Libya. This extinction is definitely a growing threat to the wild population of Egyptian Tortoises.

They like semi-arid climates where it doesn’t get too hot or too cold like the desert, semi-desert areas, scrub forest, dry woodlands, Mediterranean coastal strips, gravel plains, and coastal salt marshes.

They try to make a home in places with a moderate temperature. If it gets too cold, they will only be active during midday, and when it is too hot, they will only be active during the early morning hours or in the evening.

These tiny tortoises can be found resting under bushes or in any shrubby area. They pick dry areas and mostly live in climates with less than 2 inches of rainfall per year.

Egyptian Tortoise Diet

While little is known about what they really eat in the wild, we noticed that they are herbivorous. In the wild, they seem to be forage all kinds of vegetation, grass, fruits, and apparently hunting the occasional insect.

Generally, they do follow a herbivorous diet, though.

They will most likely scavenge and go for whatever looks good to eat or might munch on something interesting.

Egyptian Tortoise Lifespan

They say the lifespan of an Egyptian Tortoise is 70 up to 100 years. This may only be possible with proper husbandry, which would ultimately increase their longevity.

But according to EAZA Reptile Taxon Advisory Group of Blijdorp Rotterdam Zoo, their lifespan significantly decreases down to 26.29 years for females and 22.18 for the males, when cared for in captivity. This study was done based on 248 tortoises of the species.

They will reach their adult sizes in approximately 4 years, but will typically be fully grown in 7 to 10 years.

As we mentioned earlier, their extinction is growing relatively near and action needs to be taken before their species completely dies out.

They are now a protected species in Egypt, that law does not apply to Libya. This law states that it is illegal to capture or trade this species internationally.

While these protection laws and many others have passed to stop the capturing and killing of these endangered animals, they are still being taken and smuggled all around the world each year.

Egyptian Tortoise Breeding Habits

Egyptian tortoises also known as the kleinmann's tortoise stacked on top of each other
Egyptian tortoises also known as the kleinmann’s tortoise stacked on top of each other

Egyptian Tortoises sexually mature when they are around 5 years of age or at their recommended breeding sizes of at least 4 inches for females and 3 inches for males.

Breeding season will usually commence in the spring around April and may continue on up to September. During this time, the male may chase the female and chirp at her with his mating call.

Nesting season usually happens around July until December. Females can nest up to 7 or more times per year and may lay anywhere between 1 and 5 eggs, which are then stored under bushes or burrows.

After the incubation period, these eggs should hatch in the summer or early autumn.

Of course, these timelines and periods may be different depending on the weather conditions.

Predators of the Egyptian Tortoise

Closeup of egyptian-tortoise hiding in its shell
Closeup of egyptian-tortoise hiding in its shell

When the weather changes, the Egyptian Tortoise may become less active, meaning they will take on existing resting places and burrows instead of building their own.

They will oftentimes use rodent burrows, which might bring predators such as monitor lizards or ravens. Ravens are already a natural predator of the Egyptian Tortoise.

As human settlement continued to destroy the tortoise’s natural habitats while treeless areas now provide nesting opportunities for ravens, things are not looking good for the Egyptian Tortoise population.

Sometimes, farmer dogs mistakenly eat the small tortoise, and rats eat their eggs and hatchlings.

Egyptian Tortoise Legality

Check with your Department of Natural Resources or US Fish and Wildlife Services to double-check that there are no state-specific regulations that outlaw tortoise ownership.

They may have it listed on their website for your state or you might need to give them a call but you should find out the legal species for your specific location since it really is on a state-by-state basis.

In most cases, it is not illegal to own a tortoise, but some tortoise species may require permits to cross state lines.

It seems none of the commonly available non-native ones have any restrictions at all so any legal prohibitions would be on a state or local level.

 If you wish to sell them across state lines, the recipient needs to have a “Captive Bred Wildlife” permit, which is not difficult to get.

Where to Buy Egyptian Tortoises

There are many places online and reputable sites that sell captive-bred tortoises.

The reason why you want captive-bred or commercial tortoises is due to the ability to choose your tortoises, the fact that your species choices won’t be limited to local or native species, you’re not involving in the depletion of the wild population, and captive-bred tortoises will already be acclimated to captivity.

This is especially true with the popularly illegally-traded Egyptian Tortoise.

Most captive-bred Egyptian Tortoises may lay under 3 eggs per clutch, which makes them a little harder to breed. But all we can do is keep trying and making sure that we are supporting the breeders that are trying to save the species.

While you can find them for very cheap, you must do your research and make sure you are buying from a reputable breeder.

Most of the time, due to their small clutch size and rarity from extinction, you might have to pay up to a price of $1,000 or more at a good captive breeding program.

Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask them all your questions!

Egyptian Tortoise Care 

Egyptian tortoise also known as the kleinmann's tortoise on rock in enclosure
Egyptian tortoise on rock in indoor enclosure

Enclosure

If you are planning to keep your small tortoise indoors, the best enclosure would be a tortoise table, which is a wooden, walled box sometimes with a glass top to see your tortoises through.

A setup measuring 2 feet length and width-wise, as well as 2 feet tall, should comfortably house 2 adult Egyptian Tortoises. You can even use this size to house just one tortoise because, as always, the bigger the better since it will give them more room to roam around. 

Cleaning

Their waste should be removed regularly, at least daily if there is any to remove. 

Change their drinking and soaking water often. 

Remove any dead insects or animals from inside their enclosure if they happen to slip in.

If you are feeding them commercial tortoise food, make sure you take the time to change it and replenish it if it is uneaten after a while to avoid molding.

To clean your tortoise, give them a shallow bath about 2 to 3 times a week for about 10 minutes to allow them to get some fresh, clean water. This will also stimulate their bowels and should trigger a bowel movement.

Substrate

When it comes to Egyptian Turtle substrate, you need to consider their natural semi-arid environment when choosing a material. You don’t want anything that will increase the humidity inside their enclosure.

Some good choices for substrate include sand, soil, a mixture of the two, beech woodchips, aspen bedding, and some keepers even stand by oyster shells.

You should fill their enclosure up to about 2 to 3 inches and around 5 inches for when they are nesting. They do not climb and may dig or burrow so allow them some depth to give them a choice.

Temperature 

Egyptian Tortoises come from dry, sandy, hardly vegetated areas with hardly any rain and the occasional coastal fog.

While they can handle a small range of climates, they prefer average temperatures of about 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. You should now allow their enclosure to go below 54 degrees Fahrenheit and may need a heat source if your area is cooler than this.

They require a basking temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Humidity

These tortoises are native to arid climates and can hardly tolerate any damp conditions. They prefer humidity levels to be between 20 and 30 percent.

You want to try to find a middle ground between these numbers; a shallow water bowl should do the trick. Offer and change this bowl regularly.

Lighting 

Egyptian Tortoises will often bask in the sun naturally so that they receive a high dose of that needed Vitamin D3. They need UVB rays to synthesize Vitamin D3 to absorb the calcium they need for healthy bone structure and growth.

You should try your best to invest in properly replicating UVB in their indoor enclosure. Many reptiles that aren’t provided with sufficient UVB suffer from Metabolic Bone Disease.

In order to do that, you might want to find a desert-strength 10 to 20 percent UVB fluorescent tube bulb. Put this inside your pet’s enclosure with a reflector to make sure you are not wasting any needed rays.

You may run into the question of whether you want a T8 or newer T5 tube. T5 UVB rays will travel further and will produce more light than the T8 so opt for that one, if possible.

You will also want to install heat lamps in addition to your basking lamp for these little guys. Use a heat bulb that can warm one side of their tank to about 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but also leave them a cooler side that measures about 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Accessories

They do not climb, but they may burrow or dig only because they like to hide. You can help them out a little bit by providing them with natural wood decorations or hides, especially for younger tortoises.

Feeding

These herbivores require many different types of vegetation, grass, and fruits.

They require a high-fiber, herbivorous diet in order to lead healthy lives.

However, there are some things that can be fed to them daily, weekly, and some foods that should just be fed to them as an occasional snack.

Here is an Egyptian Tortoise food list that we’ve put together:

Egyptian Tortoise Food Chart

Egyptian tortoise also known as the kleinmann's tortoise looking curious
Egyptian tortoise also known as the kleinmann’s tortoise looking curious
4 TIMES WEEKLY

Staple Foods

Staple foods should make up 80 percent of their diet. Give them these staple foods with every feeding:

The bulk of their usual feed should consist of mixed greens such as leafy salads, spring greens, curly kale, watercress, parsley, Brussel tops, coriander, and rocket.

Variety Foods

Variety foods should make up about 10 percent of your tortoise’s diet. Offer a couple of these in small quantities with staple foods:

Some plants to add into their feed include fibrous grasses and weeds such as plantain weed, white nettle, hawkbit, violas, chickweed, bindweeds, goatsbeard, corn poppy, and nipplewort. 

Some other vegetables you can add to their daily feed are carrots, parsnip, bell peppers, and zucchini.

You can also throw in some dandelions, clover, and honeysuckle.

ONCE OR TWICE WEEKLY

This should only make up about 5 to 10 percent of their diet. 

Fruit

Fruit should not be fed to them as a staple but can be given to your tortoise in small portions and only once or twice weekly. 

OCCASIONAL SNACKS

By ‘occasional’, we mean once a month and only a single piece.

Fruits like bananas, pears, tomatoes, and apples are the kinds of fruits you can give them every once in a while. 

Temperament

Egyptian tortoise also known as the kleinmann's tortoise in shell
Egyptian tortoise also known as the kleinmann’s tortoise in shell

This species is quite a nice, well-tempered tortoise. They are not aggressive but may get a little bit grumpy if you handle them too much. 

They are still very cute, though, even when they’re angry. But don’t tempt them into getting aggressive.

Due to their small size and calm demeanor, they can make a great family pet. They are generally good around kids, but there should always be adult supervision present.

Handling

They are generally passive when it comes to handling and can seem calm. However, they don’t take well to handling and actually don’t really like it. 

Because of their small size, it may be tempting to try and pick them up, but it’s generally a good idea to try and keep handling them to a minimum, if possible.

Egyptuian Tortoise FAQ

two Egyptian tortoises also known as the kleinmann's tortoise next to each other
two Egyptian tortoises also known as the kleinmann’s tortoise next to each other

Is an Egyptian tortoise a good pet?

Yes. They can be a great family pet since they are friendly and generally calm beings. While they are non-aggressive, children should not be handling them without adult supervision for the tortoise’s sake. 

How big do Egyptian Tortoises get?

In most cases, this species of tortoise will not grow to be larger than 5 inches in carapace length. Females are usually larger and the largest Egyptian Tortoise ever recorded was still only 5.7 inches.

Do Egyptian Tortoises have to hibernate?

No. Egyptian Tortoises do not naturally hibernate, but if they are in temperatures that are too hot, you may see a decrease in activity levels. If temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit, they will enter aestivation, which is like the summer version of winter hibernation.

How long do Egyptian Tortoises hibernate for?

Egyptian Tortoises do not hibernate, but they do aestivate when temperatures go above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Aestivation is like the summer version of winter hibernation, where they will stay inside burrows or hides for long periods of time.

How do you know if your tortoise is an Egyptian?

You can tell by looking at their shell and coloration. They can range from ivory to grey, to pale yellows and golden. They will usually have brown colorings on their carapace in around the patterns on their backs.

How long do Egyptian Tortoises live?

They say the lifespan of an Egyptian Tortoise is 70 up to 100 years. This may only be possible with proper husbandry, which would ultimately increase their longevity.

But according to EAZA Reptile Taxon Advisory Group of Blijdorp Rotterdam Zoo, their lifespan significantly decreases down to 26.29 years for females and 22.18 for the males, when cared for in captivity. This study was done based on 248 tortoises of the species.

How much does an Egyptian Tortoise cost?

While you can find them for very cheap, you must do your research and make sure you are buying from a reputable breeder. 

Most of the time, due to their small clutch size and rarity from extinction, you might have to pay up to a price of $1,000 or more at a good captive breeding program.

What can I feed my Egyptian Tortoise?

Egyptian Tortoises eat a herbivorous diet of vegetation, grass, and fruit. 

Can Egyptian Tortoises eat cucumber?

Yes. Egyptian Tortoises can eat cucumber.

Can your Egyptian Tortoise eat tomato?

Yes. Tomatoes can be a nutritious snack for your pet, but should only be fed as a treat, though. 

Can Egyptian Tortoises eat bananas?

Yes, Egyptian Tortoises can eat bananas, but they should only be fed to them sparingly, once or twice a week.

Conclusion

The Egyptian Tortoise is a small, super cute reptile to keep as a pet.

If you are fond of tiny tortoises and have the time, space, and ability to care for this rare species, they could be a greatly rewarding pet to keep.

We hope that you learned a lot from our article and that this helped motivate you to care well for your special Egyptian Tortoise.

Let us know in the comments section below about your pet tortoise and what special care you are providing it.

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josalynn shearer

Friday 30th of August 2019

i want this turtle. its so cute and i will give this tortis a great home:)

josalynn shearer

Friday 30th of August 2019

thanks you for your service. i will name my turtle bob.