What Is an Egyptian Tortoise?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 10 August 2019
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The Egyptian tortoise is a species of Mediterranean tortoise native to the deserts and partial deserts of Northern Africa. These tortoises also are popular pets. They are now believed to be nearly extinct in the wild, most likely due to the depredations of the illegal pet market. They typically reach lengths of about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) and they usually feed on leaves and grasses. The female Egyptian tortoise usually lays up to five eggs yearly, and the newly-hatched tortoises can take up to five years to reach sexual maturity.

These tortoises are usually beige or yellowish in color, but may have dark splotches on their carapaces. They can live for about 50 years. They do not generally hibernate in the wild, but may become sluggish during the winter months. They typically become active during the day and rest at night, though, in the wild, the Egyptian tortoise will retreat to the shade during the hottest part of the day, especially in the summer.


This species of Mediterranean tortoise has long been considered a good pet. When kept in captivity, they should usually be provided with ultraviolet (UV) light for sunning themselves. The tank should generally be warmed to a daytime temperature of between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 to 29.4 Celsius) and a nighttime temperature of no more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 Celsius). These temperatures are believed to replicate the Egyptian tortoise's natural habitat in the deserts of Northern Africa.

A successful habitat for a captive Egyptian tortoise does not generally need to be humidified. These tortoises are believed to have adapted well to a dry environment. They do not usually need to be misted and their tank lining should generally be kept dry. Tanks should ideally be as large as possible, since these tortoises can require a lot of exercise, and should be lined with a mixture of dried grasses and crushed oyster shell.

Fruit can be harmful to the Egyptian tortoise, so hobbyists are typically advised to feed them leaves and herbs alone. They can eat a wide variety of kitchen herbs, including thyme, lavender, dill, and rosemary. They can also subsist well on a diet of greens from plants such as mustard or dandelions. Broccoli, green beans, corn, and other vegetables can form part of the pet Egyptian tortoise's diet. They can usually benefit from the regular addition of a calcium supplement to their food.


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