Testudo kleinmanni

Lortet, 1883
Egyptian tortoise

This species closely resembles Testudo graeca, and has in the past been considered a dwarf race of it. Its domed carapace (to 14.4 cm) is highest behind the center with abruptly descending sides, a cervical notch, and a flared supracaudal. A cervical scute is present, which is usually broad and triangular, but may be long and narrow. Vertebrals are broader than long; the 5th is expanded. Vertebral and pleural areolae may be raised slightly and surrounded by growth annuli. There are 10 to 12 marginals on each side; the supracaudal is usually undivided and projects beyond the marginals. The carapace is greenish yellow to yellowish brown, and usually has dark seam borders, occasionally very broad. The plastron is well-developed. Its forelobe is upturned, tapered anteriorly, and shorter and narrower than the hindlobe, which has a posterior notch. The plastral formula is: abd > an > pect >< hum > gul > fem; the paired gulars are thickened, and rarely project beyond the carapacial rim. The broad bridge has an axillary and one or two small inguinal scutes, which may touch the femoral scute. Plastron and bridge are yellow with a triangular blotch on each abdominal scute, often on each pectoral scute and rarely along the seams. Dark blotches are entirely absent on the plastron of some individuals. The head is moderate in size with a nonprotruding snout and a weakly hooked, tricuspid upper jaw. Its large prefrontal scale may be longitudinally divided or subdivided; the frontal may be entire or subdivided; other head scales are small. The quadrate almost, but not completely, encloses the stapes, and the orbito-nasal foramina are large. Head and limbs are yellowish brown; the jaws tan. Three (occasionally four) longitudinal rows of large, nonoverlapping scales lie on the anterior surface of each foreleg, and there are five claws on each forefoot. Spurlike scales occur on each heel, but no tubercles on the thighs. The tail lacks a terminal claw.
Males have long tails with the vent toward the tip and are smaller and more elongated than females.

T. kleinmanni is known from Tripolitania and Cyrenaica of Libya (Fritz and Buskirk, 1997), northwestern deserts of the Nile Delta and the Sinai Desert of Egypt, and portions of the Negev Desert of Israel. Near Be'er Mash'abim, in the northern Negev, it occurs sympatrically with T. terrestris (Bringsøe and Buskirk, 1998). T. kleinmanni may be virtually extirpated in Egypt (Baha el Din, 1994).

The Egyptian tortoise inhabits deserts, dry woodlands, and brushy areas of scrub thorn. This species appears to aestivate throughout its range. Loveridge and Williams (1957) remarked that it is active throughout the Egyptian winter, though more sensitive to cold than either T. graeca or T. marginata.

Natural History
Courtship and mating in the wild have only been observed in March (Geffen and Mendelssohn, 1991); in captivity reproduction takes place in April and August to November (Loveridge and Williams, 1957; Hobbs and May, 1993). The male rams the female during courtship, starting a frantic chase sequence (Hobbs and May, 1993). He may also emit a distinctive mating vocalization reminiscent of a mourning dove's call (Loveridge and Williams, 1957; Hobbs and May, 1993).
Nesting in Israel takes place from March to the end of June (Geffen and Mendelssohn, 1991). When nesting, the female digs a hole the depth of her outstretched hindleg, preferring a sunlight exposure under a bush.
Clutch size is 1-3 eggs, and the brittle-shelled ellipsoidal eggs are 26-32 x 21-23 mm (Loveridge and Williams, 1957; Geffen and Mendelssohn, 1991; Hobbs and May, 1993). Geffen and Mendelssohn (1991) reported an incubation period of 70-90 days in the wild; artificially incubated eggs have hatched in 96-123 days (Hobbs and May, 1993). Hatchlings are yellow with elongated oval carapaces 25-32 mm long (Loveridge and Williams, 1957; Hobbs and May, 1993).
Food in the wild consists of a variety of annual plants with a high protein and water, but a low salt content (Mendelssohn and Geffen, 1986). Captives will eat low fat grasses, forbs, and those vegetables and fruits that have the best calcium/phosphorus ratio (Hobbs and May, 1993).

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Endangered (A1abcd).