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Impressed Tortoise

The impressed tortoise is indigenous to southeastern Asia, where they prefer to live in forests of high altitude. These tortoises can grow over a foot long (carapace length), and their shells have serrated edges. They get their name from their shell, which is distinctly flat or impressed. Adult females of this species are usually noticeably larger.

Impressed Tortoise Facts and Information

This species of tortoises are known to be native to the Malay Peninsula in Malaysia, Karenni hills in Myanmar, Langbian Plateau and Tonkin both in Vietnam, and Thailand. They have also been found in Laos and Cambodia. It is possible that they occur in substantial numbers in China.

The Manouria impressa belongs to the family Testudinidae (tortoise), and the genus Manouria that include only two species. The other species that belong to this genus is the Asian forest tortoise (Manouria emys).

The Manouria impressa tortoises have pale yellowish brown shells. The scutes (scales) of their shell are indented or impressed instead of having the usual dome shape found in most tortoises – thus their name.

The frontal scutes of these species are elongated to offer protection while the rear end of their shells is serrated. The limbs and tail of this species are golden dark brown in color while their heads have a yellowish tinge to it.

Impressed Tortoise Diet

Impressed Tortoise Diet

In the wild, these tortoises feed almost exclusively on mushrooms. It is postulated that the wild impressed tortoise may also feed on bamboo, grass and other vegetation.

In captivity, they are very fussy eaters. Because of the difficulty and limited success of captive breeding, most impressed tortoises that become pets are not captive bred.

This makes feeding them even more difficult. Many will refuse to eat or eat just a single food. Pet/zoo impressed tortoises will almost only feed on mushrooms such as oyster mushrooms. They may also eat pellets and mixed greens.

Impressed Tortoise Habitat

In the wild, these tortoises are known to live in bamboo evergreen forests in the hills and mountains in southeastern Asia.

The Manouria i. testudines spend most of their time on forest floor hiding under leaves. They prefer thick evergreen forests as well as bamboo thickets. Because the impressed tortoises live in very dark, cool and dense forest, researches find it difficult to study them.

They prefer to live in elevations of 1300 meters or more above sea level.

The Manouria i. testudines that live in captivity require a lot of room to thrive. Glass enclosures are not recommended for tortoises since they usually lack the needed ventilation.

Important factors to consider when building an enclosure for this forest tortoise include the space available – which should be large; substrate which should be rich, retain moisture well and be deep enough for digging; light – which includes sunlight or UVB lights; temperature – which should emulate that of the forests the impressed tortoise are endemic to; and humidity – which should be high. Also, a variation of temperature of the habitat allows the tortoises to regulate their body temperature.

The Zoo Med Tortoise enclosure is a great starting point.

Impressed Tortoise Breeding

Little is known of the breeding habits of the Manouria i. and there has been little success in captive breeding. The little known suggests that mating begins during the raining season of southeastern Asia where this species is native. This is from March to September.

The female Manouria i. lays up to 17 eggs in a shallow hole and covers the eggs with foliage. Adult females are known to guard the eggs and add nesting material until the eggs hatch.  Hatchlings’ shells are 2 inches long.

Impressed Tortoise Predators

Very little is known of the predators of this species. Humans, who are the main known predators, forage the species for food, religious and medicinal purposes. Lizards are known to prey on the eggs of this species.

Impressed Tortoise Endangerment

This species is listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN red list. In their native Thailand, they are considered as endangered. In Vietnam and Laos, this species is considered vulnerable to extinction.

Their endangerment is down to poaching as well as a loss of habitat. They are poached for the pet trade as well as for food and traditional medicine. Their habitats are shrinking due to agricultural activities.

The impressed tortoise is a delicate species that have specific needs. This makes them particularly difficult to keep healthy and breed in captivity. The best way to protect these species is to ensure their habitats are kept safe.

In Search of the Impressed Tortoise (Video)


The impressed tortoises are notoriously picky eaters, many kept as pets end up dying from starvation. Because keeping this tortoise as a pet is notoriously difficult, most turtle pet owners will find it very challenging to keep them alive.

It is recommended that care for the impressed tortoises in captivity be left to expert turtle breeders, herpetologists, zoos and establishments built purposely to care for threatened testudines.

What do you think? Have you encountered these tortoises before? Let me know in the comments below!

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