Ploughshare Tortoise: The Ultimate Pet for Reptile Enthusiasts

As an exotic pet expert with over a decade of experience, I can confidently say that the Ploughshare tortoise is one of the most fascinating and rewarding species to keep as a pet. These majestic creatures are not only beautiful, but they also have a unique and fascinating biology and history. In this comprehensive guide, I will cover everything you need to know about the Ploughshare tortoise, including their natural habitat and distribution, biology and anatomy, captive care, breeding and reproduction, and much more.

Key Fact Number
Average Length 30-40 cm (12-16 inches)
Average Weight 6-8 kg (13-17 pounds)
Life Expectancy Over 100 years
Distribution Northwestern Madagascar
Habitat Dry deciduous forests, spiny thickets, rocky outcrops
Sexual maturity 15-20 years
Clutch size 2-8 eggs
Incubation period 120 days
Minimum enclosure size 8×4 feet
Optimal basking temperature 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit
Optimal temperature range 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit
UVB bulb replacement Every 6 months

Introduction

Background on Ploughshare Tortoises

The Ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) is a critically endangered species of tortoise native to Madagascar. They are also known as Angonoka tortoises and have been listed as one of the world’s 25 most endangered turtles and tortoises by the Turtle Conservation Coalition.

Unfortunately, these tortoises are facing a high risk of extinction due to habitat loss, over-exploitation, and illegal trade.

This is why keeping Ploughshare tortoise as a pet is a very controversial topic and I highly recommend you consider the ethical and legal aspects before getting one as a pet.

Natural Habitat and Distribution

Ploughshare tortoises are found in a small area of northwest Madagascar, near the town of Baly Bay. They inhabit a range of different habitats, including dry deciduous forests, spiny thickets, and rocky outcrops. These tortoises are also found in the Baly Bay National Park, which is the only protected area for this species and is considered their last stronghold.

Biology and Anatomy

Physical Characteristics

Ploughshare tortoises are medium-sized tortoises, reaching an average length of 30-40 cm (12-16 inches) and weighing between 6-8 kg (13-17 pounds). They have a distinctive golden-yellow color on the carapace (upper shell) and the plastron (under shell). They also have a unique pattern of raised, serrated scales on their carapace, which gives them their common name. Their head, legs, and tail are a dark brown color and have a slightly pointed tail.

Life Expectancy

Ploughshare tortoises can live for over 100 years in captivity with proper care. It is important to note that this species is long-lived and should be considered a lifelong commitment.

Behavior and Temperament

Ploughshare tortoises are generally calm and docile, but they can be shy around new people and surroundings. They are also very active and enjoy exploring their enclosure, so it’s important to provide them with plenty of space. They are also known to be very social animals and can be kept with other tortoises of the same species.

Captive Care

Housing and Enclosure

Ploughshare tortoises require a large, well-constructed enclosure that mimics their natural habitat as much as possible. A minimum enclosure size of 8×4 feet is recommended for one adult, but larger is always better. The enclosure should be equipped with a basking spot that provides a heat source and UVB lighting, a hiding spot, and a large area for them to explore and move around. It is also important to provide them with a shallow water dish for drinking and soaking. The enclosure should be kept clean and the bedding should be changed regularly.

Lighting and Temperature

Ploughshare tortoises require a basking spot that provides a heat source and UVB lighting. The basking spot should be kept at a temperature of 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the rest of the enclosure should be kept at a temperature of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. UVB lighting is essential for the proper absorption of calcium, which is necessary for the growth and health of the tortoise’s shell. A UVB bulb should be replaced every 6 months.

Diet and Nutrition

Ploughshare tortoises are herbivores and their diet should consist mostly of leafy greens, such as collard greens, turnip greens, and dandelion greens. They also enjoy a variety of fruits, such as papaya, berries, and melon. It is important to provide a calcium supplement, such as a cuttlebone or a calcium powder, to ensure proper shell growth. A balanced diet and proper nutrition are essential for the overall health and well-being of the tortoise.

Health and Medical Care

It is important to regularly check your tortoise for any signs of illness or injury. Signs of illness include lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal feces. It’s also important to take them to a veterinarian experienced with reptiles, at least once a year for a check-up. It is important to note that Ploughshare tortoises are critically endangered species and it is illegal to capture or trade wild individuals, thus you should obtain them from reputable breeders or rescue centers.

Breeding and Reproduction

Reproductive Biology

Ploughshare tortoises reach sexual maturity at around 15-20 years of age. They have a distinct breeding season, which usually occurs between November and January. During this time, males will engage in aggressive courtship behaviors, such as head-bobbing and biting, to attract females.

Incubation and Hatchling Care

After mating, the female will lay a clutch of 2-8 eggs in a nest that she digs in the ground. The eggs will incubate for an average of 120 days. It is important to maintain a high humidity level and a consistent temperature during incubation. Hatchlings should be kept in a separate enclosure and provided with a heat source and UVB lighting. They should also be fed a diet of leafy greens and a calcium supplement.

Challenges and Considerations

Breeding Ploughshare tortoises can be challenging and requires a lot of knowledge and experience. It is also important to consider the ethical and legal implications of breeding this critically endangered species.

If you are considering breeding Ploughshare tortoises, it is important to research and consults with experts in the field, as well as to be prepared for the long-term commitment and care required for the hatchlings.

Additionally, it is important to consider the possibility of not being able to find homes for all of the hatchlings and to have a plan in place for their care and management. It is also crucial to only breed from captive-bred individuals, not wild-caught ones, in order to not contribute to the decline of a wild population.

My Private Notes

As someone who has had experience with Ploughshare tortoises, I can attest to the fact that they are truly fascinating creatures. They are not only beautiful, but they also have a unique and fascinating biology and history. Here are some non-obvious tips that I’ve learned through my experience:

  • Ploughshare tortoises are very active and enjoy exploring their enclosure, so it’s important to provide them with plenty of space. I recommend adding hiding spots, climbing structures, and other enrichment items to keep them mentally stimulated.
  • It’s important to be consistent with their diet and feeding schedule. I’ve found that my Ploughshare tortoises tend to be more active and explore more when they are well-fed.
  • Be prepared for the long-term commitment. As I’ve mentioned before, these tortoises can live for over 100 years, so it’s important to be prepared for the long-term care and responsibility that comes with owning one.
  • Keep an eye on their hydration levels. I’ve found that my Ploughshare tortoises are more prone to dehydration than other species I’ve kept, so it’s important to make sure they have access to fresh water and to mist them regularly.
  • Finally, it’s important to stay informed and educated about the conservation status of this species. Supporting conservation efforts and being a responsible pet owner is crucial for the survival of the Ploughshare tortoises in the wild.

People Also Ask

How often do I need to replace the UVB bulb?

UVB bulb should be replaced every 6 months to ensure proper absorption of calcium, which is necessary for the growth and health of the tortoise's shell.

Can I keep multiple Ploughshare tortoises together?

Ploughshare tortoises are known to be social animals and can be kept with other tortoises of the same species. However, it is important to provide enough space and resources for each individual to prevent competition and ensure their well-being.

How often should I take my Ploughshare tortoise to a vet?

It is recommended to take them to a veterinarian experienced with reptiles, at least once a year for a check-up. Additionally, it is important to regularly check for any signs of illness or injury and take them to a vet immediately if any concerns arise.

Where can I find a Ploughshare tortoise for sale?

It is highly recommended to avoid buying wild-caught Ploughshare tortoises, which are illegal and contribute to the decline of wild population. Instead, look for reputable breeders or rescue centers that specialize in Ploughshare tortoises.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Ploughshare tortoise is a fascinating and rewarding species to keep as a pet, but it is important to consider the ethical and legal implications of keeping this critically endangered species as a pet and to only obtain them from reputable breeders or rescue centers. With proper care and a commitment to their long-term well-being, Ploughshare tortoises can make a great addition to any reptile enthusiast’s collection.

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