Indotestudo forstenii

(Schlegel and Müller, 1844)
Travancore tortoise

The elongated carapace (to 30.9 cm) is domed, but flattened dorsally, with descending sides. A cervical notch is due to the absence of a cervical scute; the posterior marginals are serrated (more strongly so in juveniles). Vertebrals are broader than long, the 5th is expanded. Well-defined growth annuli surround the vertebral and pleural areolae. There are usually 11 marginals on each side, and the single supracaudal scute may be downturned between the somewhat expanded posterior marginals. The carapace is either unpatterned gray to brown, or yellow brown to brown or olive with dark blotches on each scute. The plastron is well-developed. Its forelobe tapers anteriorly and is shorter and narrower than the hindlobe. The plastral formula is: abd > fem >< hum > gul >< pect > an. The gulars are somewhat thickened. The bridge is wide, and the axillary and inguinal scutes are moderate in size. Plastron and bridge are yellowish to brown with small black blotches. The head is moderate in size with a nonprotruding snout and a weakly hooked, tricuspid upper jaw. Its large prefrontal is divided longitudinally, and the single frontal scale is almost as large; other head scales are small. The head is yellow with some brown or orange pigment. Neck, limbs, and tail are brownish gray to olive. The anterior surface of the forelimbs is covered with large, yellow, irregularly shaped, overlapping scales (the outermost largest).
Males have longer, thicker tails with the vent nearer the tip than do females.

Indotestudo forstenii occurs in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in southwestern India, and has been introduced on Sulawesi and Halmahera, Indonesia.

Prime habitat is semi-evergreen and evergreen upland forests, were the tortoise takes refuge in leaf litter, brush, hollow logs, and rock crevices (Bhupathy and Choudhury, 1995). It is found to elevations of 1000 m.

Natural History
Mating begins with the monsoons, and usually takes place at dusk or dawn. Males recognize females by olfaction. When the male approaches the female, his neck is extended and the head is moved through a short vertical arch followed by a small rapid circle (Auffenberg, 1964). The female is then rammed and pushed with the gulars to immobilize her and mounting follows. The male may bite the female's neck (Das, 1995). Males vocalize during courtship.
Breeding takes place from November through January, and the pinkish pigmentation around the orbits and nasal area intensifies in both sexes, but to a greater extent in males. Das (1995) reported that a female oviposited in a nest of leaf litter. Clutches contain 1-7 elongated (40-58 x 31-44 mm) eggs; incubation may last over 140 days. Hatchlings have 55 mm humpbacked carapaces with strong posterior serration.
Like other tortoises, Indotestudo forstenii is a vegetarian, eating fungi, grasses, bamboo shoots, fallen fruits and flowers (Das, 1991, 1995). Captives occasionally accept animal foods. Males may vocalize during rainstorms.

Hoogmoed and Crumly (1984) have shown that Testudo forstenii (Schlegel and Müller, 1844) is a senior synonym of T. travancorica Boulenger, 1907, and supposed differences in the plastral pattern, gular measurements, and general shell morphology do not distinguish travancorica from forstenii. They believe forstenii was introduced onto the islands east of Wallace's Line from mainland Indian stock.
However, in Roger Bour's opinion, the presence or absence of a cervical scute—one of the main characters separating I. elongata and I. forstenii —may not be fixed in the genus Indotestudo (pers. comm.). Bour states that Indotestudo forstenii is likely to include distinct populations.

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Vulnerable (A1cd). The main threats to the tortoise are habitat destruction by timber operations, cane collection, and exploitation by local tribes for pets, food and medicine.