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Species group: Tortoises
Other name: Bell’s Hingeback Tortoise; Bell's Tortoise; African Hinge-back Tortoise; Western Bell's Hinge-back Tortoise (K. belliana nogueyi); Southeastern Bell's Hinge-back (K. belliana zombensis)
Scientific name: Kinixys belliana
The Bell’s Hinge-back Tortoise is native to parts of southern Africa, usually in savannah type habitats. The Bells Hinge-back Tortoise is a member of the Kinixys genus of turtles (known as hinged tortoises). The hinged tortoises are have a hinged carapace that allows the rear of their shell to close to protect their hind feet and tail. There are three subspecies in the Kinixys belliana family:
Size and Coloration: Members of the Kinixys genus all have a hinged rear carapace. Their tail and rear legs can be safely closed off into the shell. This species in particular is greatly varied in its coloration among individuals. They usually have some type of Yellow-brown shell with each scute having thin dark outlining and center marks. Their carapace is nicely rounded and oval shaped from above with rear marginal scutes that may be slightly flared. The plastron may be uniformly cream colored or cream colored with dark markings. The nominant K. b. belliana has five toes on the front feet while the Western Bell’s Hinge-back (K. b. nogueyi) has four.
AVERAGE ADULT WEIGHT: up to 5 lbs
AVERAGE ADULT SIZE: Males: up to 8 inches, Females: up to 8 ½ inches
Caging: The Bell’s Hinge-back Tortoise needs a large enclosure. A space of 15 feet x 10 feet for 2 tortoises is an ideal start. They thrive best outdoors and often are given the run of the yard. However the special care needs of the Bell’s Hinge-back Tortoise make housing this species rather complicated. This tortoise species is not for the pet owner seeking an easy to care for pet. Due to their temperature and humidity requirements they will most likely need to have an extensive indoor habitat in addition to their outdoor yard space. For an indoor habitat, a specially designed tortoise box or tub works best. Outdoor habitats should be well planted with shady bushes and may need misters in the drier climates. Some great plant choices that they can also eat are petunias, hibiscus, aloe vera and a variety of grasses. Mulch, moss, or bark can be used as a substrate, both indoors and out, to help maintain a higher humidity level. Mulch not only increases the humidity it also provides natural bugs and snails for them to forage on. A plastic sheet can cover part of the outdoor habitat to increase the humidity. They require a pool that they can submerge half way into; they will enjoy a soaking and may even go for a swim.
TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY: Humidity: 50-60%. Daytime temperatures of 77-82° F.
HIBERNATION / ESTIVATION: The Bell’s Hinge-back Tortoise does naturally hibernate and will aestivate in the wild if conditions are exceptionally dry. For hibernation of your pet tortoise provide winter conditions at 53-57° F for 8 weeks and reduce the humidity during this time.
HEALTH CONCERNS: These tortoises due tend to have medical problems making regular veterinarian care all the more important. Wild caught tortoises do not fare well, they are generally unhealthy; loaded with parasites and dehydrated. Most of them die quickly in captivity. Do make sure you know the source of your pet tortoise and that it is a well bred captive tortoise. These tortoises can also suffer from eye problems due to improper humidity levels.
Breeding: The aggressive nature of hinge-backs males make it risky to house them with other males. Like other tortoises the male will ram, circle, and bite the female as part of the courtship phase.
Diet: The Bell’s Hinge-back Tortoise is unique in its naturally varied diet. They are natural omnivores eating large amounts of fallen, well ripened fruit, flowers, plants leaves, and dead animals. They will also feast on mushrooms, slugs, and bugs (a bonus for your garden!) Likewise, as a pet, they should be fed a diet that is highly varied. Their diet should consist of fruits such as mangoes, papaya, grapes, and berries, as well as grasses, timothy hay, flowers (roses, hibiscus) dark leafy greens, and the occasional egg. They should get calcium carbonate supplements once a week.
Temperament: A cautious and reserved tortoise, the Bell’s Hinge-back takes its time to become receptive to human interaction.