The Bells Hinged Back Tortoise is a medium sized tropical and semi-tropical tortoise that requires higher humidity levels compared to other species.
As the name would suggest, the Bells Hinged Back Tortoise has a hinge on the underside to protect the rear limbs and tail from predators. This is located on the 4th and 5th costals and the 7th and 8th peripherals in adults.
They are a medium sized tortoise reaching 22-25cm (8-10 inches). They have a smooth shell compared to the other Hinged Tortoises which have serrated edges. Specimens from open grassland and savannahs tend to have a deeper shell whereas ones found living within a rocky terrain are compressed to squeeze into those tight gaps. Hatchlings have a dark shell with prominent scutes (the ringed area on the shell); as they grow this lightens to a straw like colour with darker ringed scutes.
Bells Hinged Back Tortoises live in tropical to subtropical areas of Africa. They can be found living in open grassland, savannahs or rocky terrains but not desert or semi desert regions.
Bells Hinged Back Tortoises are not for beginners; experience is required as they require higher humidity levels compared to other species are shy and can easily become stressed.
Although being a shy species, they are very active at dawn and dusk; therefore a large vivarium is required, under no circumstance use a Tortoise Table. Provided a minimum of 4x2x2ft vivarium for two females or a sexed pair, never keep mature males together as they will fight and bite at each other’s limbs.
Use a soil, sand and orchid bark mix; ProRep Tortoise Life is ideal with some orchid bark mixed in along with leaf litter. We would recommend placing a tray with damp substrate to help with the humidity levels; this will also prevent any damage to your enclosure. You must place a number of hides within the vivarium; these can be natural cork bark, large reptile caves, wooden huts or stone made into secure hides/caves.
The Bells Hinged Back Tortoise is secretive and does not like strong bright lights; this is why they hide during the best part of the day. UVB lighting is very important and a 5% UVB tube or low wattage mercury bulb should be used within the enclosure. Day time temperatures should be maintained between 24C - 27C (75F - 81F) with a basking area of up to 28C (83F). The temperatures are very important for this species, but please note; where these are native to the winter nights can reach as low as 0C (32F)!
Humidity is the key to keeping this species healthy and active. They become active before and during rains in Africa; therefore regular misting of water should be made within the enclosure. The use of a humidity box/area would be beneficial as this will prevent any damage to your enclosure. They also require a luke warm bath at least twice a week.
The Bells Hinged Back Tortoise is omnivore, meaning they require both 50% vegetable and fruits along with 50% insects within their diet. Feeding is very easy as they will take a vast amount of different foods. To name a few vegetable and fruits; spinach, leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, dandelion, cress, mushrooms, cucumber, tomatoes, melon, banana, orange, grapes, peach and other soft fruits. Insects taken in captivity are; crickets, mealworms, earthworms, slugs, snails, beetle, other insects may be taken. They will also take small amounts of scrambled eggs and the use of a quality low fat tinned dog food can be fed in small amounts occasionally; too much dog food can cause shell deformities and kidney damage.
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