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Regions > African Rainforest > Home’s hingeback tortoise
Home’s hingeback tortoise
Location at the Zoo: African Rainforest
Scientific Name: Kinixys homeana
This tortoise has a medium to reddish brown angular shell which slopes greatly. Some have yellow markings. Both the limbs and head are brown to yellow. The most unique characteristic of the hingeback tortoise genus (Kinixys) is the hinge that is across the rear of the carapace. They are the only living tortoises to have this type of hinge. It is a band of flexible connective tissue located between the 4th and 5th costals and the 7th and 8th peripherals in adults. The Home’s hingeback tortoise is also known as the forest hingeback tortoise. Kinixys homeana can be distinguished from the other hingebacks by its shell which is quite angular and comes to an abrupt end at the back, appearing to be cut off. This vertical drop is quite pronounced.
Hingebacks legs are not as club shaped as other Testudinidae. They are long and slender giving it an unusual gait when it walks. The tail ends in a claw-like tubercle. Males have longer, thicker tails than the females and they have concave plastrons. These tortoises have relatively long skulls and a hooked upper jaw. Hatchlings are flattened with serrated marginals and the hinge begins to develop when they are one year old. Females are larger than males, but males possess longer and thicker tails.
Length: 15 – 30 cm.
It is found in Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and possibly Togo.
Home’s hinge-back tortoise is a forest tortoise, generally observed in shady places in lowland evergreen forest. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical swamps, plantations, and similar areas of high humidity.
Omnivorous and primarily insectivorous. Common foods eaten are fruit, grass, plants, slugs, millipedes, and snails.
Reproduction and Development :
Mating occurs during the wet season of November to February and the main egg laying season also occurs during this period. Clutches of one to three eggs are laid. These are incubated for a period of five months or more. The relatively large eggs are oval to almost spherical (46 x 35 mm) and have brittle shells. The tiny hatchlings, less than five centimetres long, have flattened, brown carapaces, with no hinge. Size varies between 42 and 47 mm long. They have very spiny rims, marginals are serrated. They have no hinge or cervical scute. The hinge begins to develop when they are one year of age.
Home’s hinge-back tortoises belong to a unique group of tortoises that can close themselves entirely within their shells. As the name suggests, this group possess a hinge at the back of the carapace (or shell), that can close off the tortoise’s vulnerable parts, providing excellent protection from potential predators to both head and limbs. The shape of the carapace also channels rainwater towards its head for drinking.
This secretive tortoise has adapted its behaviour to tolerate the high heat of its tropical environment. Overheating is possible, and so the tortoise rests and moves in the shade. When water is not available, Home’s hinge-back tortoises may bury themselves below ground and emerge again when the rains come. It has a diverse diet, consuming both animal and plant food, which is located using the sense of smell as the tortoise makes straight, darting jabs with the head. Interestingly, it is one of the most carnivorous terrestrial Chelonians in the world.
Threats to Survival :
In its native West Africa, the Home’s hingeback tortoise is threatened by habitat loss and intensive harvesting. Ninety percent of its natural habitat of moist lowland forests and swamps has disappeared over the last 40 years. It is also harvested intensively for food (bush meat), traditional medicines, and the international pet trade.
IUCN: Vulnerable; CITES: Appendix ll
Zoo Diet :
Psittacine soft diet, beef heart gelatine, smelt, nightcrawlers, reptile salad, grapes, Thiamine tablet, and Vitamin E.