Tag Archives: Angulate Tortoise

Angulate Tortoise

Chersina angulata

The most commonly encountered tortoise in the thickets, fynbos and karoo scrub of South Africa’s south-western corner, Angulate Tortoises show a marked preference for sandy areas, and feed on grasses, annuals and succulents. They drink water through their nostrils! Adult male Angulate Tortoises are noticeably larger than the females, grow to as much as 30cm in length and can weigh up to 1.5kg, which is unusual as females are bigger than males in most other tortoise species.

Adults are usually solitary, except when mating, and have small home ranges of up to only 2 hectares. Angulate Tortoises are diurnal, often hiding under vegetation, among rocks or in holes in the ground during the hottest parts of the day or in bad weather. To escape danger they will retract their head, neck and limbs into the shell and will squirt the contents of its bowels if picked up.

Both sexes reach breeding age at between 10 and 12 years old. During the mating season, which spans spring and summer, males will engage in intense fights for dominance and try to flip each other over (with some effort they are normally able to get back on their feet). After mating, females can delay fertilisation until favourable environmental conditions prevail, which is normally just after rain has softened the soil. She then digs a small hole, lies a single egg weighing between 20 and 25g, fills the hole back up and taps the soil down with her shell. Under favourable conditions females can lay up to 6 eggs in a season. Incubation takes 90 to 200 days, depending on ambient temperatures, and when the tiny hatchlings emerge they weigh only 8-12g.

The Angulate Tortoise is commonly seen in parts of the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape Provinces, as well as in southern Namibia. The IUCN considers it as being of least concern as it is very numerous with few significant threats (such as habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade) to its continued survival. They are unfortunately very prone to dying in wildfires. The Angulate Tortoise has a life expectancy in the wild of around 30 years.