India is home to several species of tortoises found in various regions in the wild and captivity. Most of these species are in the northern part of the country in forests, grasslands, and shrublands. Like most tortoise species, they are listed as endangered by various organizations.
So, what are the common types of Indian Tortoise? The types of tortoises in India include Elongated, Asian brown, Travancore, and Indian star tortoises. They inhabit most states and locations, including Assam, Manipur, and Mizoram. They are also found in parks and zoos, including Nagaland Zoological Park and Thiruvananthapuram Zoo.
Read on to learn more details about these tortoise species found in India, including their preferred habitats, lifespan, size, and weight.
Types of Indian Tortoises Overview Table
The following table provides an overview of the various types of tortoises found in India.
|Tortoise’sName||Size Adult||Weight Adult||Lifespan||Habitat||Status|
|Elongated Tortoise||30 cm||3.5 kgs||40 – 50 years||Warm tropical forest||Critically Endangered|
|Asian Brown Tortoise||60 cm||25 kgs||50-100years||Moist broadleaf forest||Critically endangered|
|Indian Star Tortoise||30 cm||7 kgs||35-80 years||Forest, shrub, and grasslands||Vulnerable|
|Travancore Tortoise||33 cm||3 kgs||30-50 years||Evergreen and bamboo forest||Vulnerable|
Types of Indian Tortoises
The following is a detailed list of various types of tortoises found in India;
1. Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata)
Elongated tortoises, also called yellow tortoises, are reptiles under the genus Indotestudo, which has three species. These species inhabit most parts of the northern and eastern parts of India. They can be found in various regions, including Assam, Odisha, Sikkim, and West Bengal.
Elongated tortoises have a yellowish color on their shell with dark blotches on their scutes. They can grow up to 30 centimeters and weigh up to 25 kilograms as adults.
These tortoises are among the crepuscular animals, meaning they are active during the twilight and dawn hours. Their large eyes help them see better in low-light areas.
Like most tortoise species, they are affected by habitat loss mainly due to human activities like urbanization. Also, most of their habitat is outside the protected areas in India, further contributing to their conservation status.
The following video shows some elongated tortoises feeding.
2. Asian Brown Tortoise (Manouria Emys)
Asian brown tortoises, also called the Asian forest tortoise, are common species in northeastern parts of India. These tortoises are the largest in mainland Asia and can surpass 25 kg in weight and 60 cm in size.
The Asian brown tortoises have two subspecies, emys and phayrei. The common type in India is the phayrei, named after Arthur Purves Phayre, a British army officer and a Naturalist.
These tortoises prefer moist habitats and are found in states like Assam, Manipur, and Mizoram. Asian brown tortoises can also be found in Nagaland Zoological Park, in Rangapahar, Nagaland.
This tortoise is the only type that lays eggs above the ground, laying them in a leaf nest, which the female makes during the breeding season.
3. Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans)
India star tortoises are reptiles of the genus Geochelone and are popular species for their convex shell with distinctive markings. Their shells are usually black with brown markings and a brown body. Adults weigh between 4 and 7 kgs and can grow up to 30cm.
They inhabit forests, shrublands, and grasslands in central and southern regions of India. They are active during the day, which is when they feed, only taking shade during hot temperatures. During the cold months, they are less active but do not hibernate.
Indian star tortoises are declining in the wild, with the main threat being poaching and habitat loss. According to National Geographic, in 2014, at least 55,000 of these tortoises were poached in Andhra Pradesh. With that rate, Indian star tortoise numbers lower even more.
4. Travancore Tortoise (Indotestudo Travancorica)
Travancore tortoises are another member of the genus Indotestudo. The species are medium-sized, growing to about 33 centimeters and weighing up to 3 kilograms. Their shells are usually brown with black blotches on the scutes.
They inhabit various Indian states, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. Travancore tortoises prefer to live in moist forests, including evergreen, bamboo, and deciduous forests.
They are also crepuscular and active in the late afternoon hours, feeding on various grasses, herbs, and fruits. They also occasionally eat insects and scavenge on dead animals.
Other Types of Turtles in India
India is also home to various freshwater and sea turtles like those below.
- Tricarinate hill turtle (Melanochelys tricarinata)
- Indian Flapshell Tortoise (Lissemys punctata)
- Indian Roofed Turtle (Pangshura tecta)
- Indian Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia gangetica)
- Assam Roofed Turtle (Pangshura sylhetensis)
- Red Crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga)
- Indian Tent Turtle (Pangshura tentoria)
- Black Pond Turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii)
- Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
- Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
- Indian Eyed Turtle (Morenia petersi)
- Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)
- Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
The following section contains various questions and answers about Indian tortoise species that can better your research.
Star tortoises are the most popular type of tortoise in India. The species is popular due to the pattern on its shell and is a common item in the exotic pet trade.
The Indian Wildlife Act 1972 prohibits catching, keeping, or selling tortoises and turtles indigenous to India. Therefore, you cannot buy any of these indigenous species. However, you can buy and keep other species not endemic to India.
You can own a tortoise in India, just not the species found in the country. The Red-footed, cherry head, Leopard, and Hermann’s tortoise are among the legal species you can own.
There you have it, Elongated, Asian brown, Travancore, and Indian star tortoises are the tortoises native to India. They can be seen in the wild in various states, including Assam, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka.
Additionally, if you are touring the country you can see these tortoises in various zoos and parks across the country. Just remember these reptiles are endangered, and efforts to conserve their habitat is much appreciated. In the article there is a list of the various turtle species you will see in the country.