Speke's hinge-back tortoise
The elongated carapace (to 20 cm) is distinctly flattened (length/height ratio usually > 2.3), with a weak, disrupted medial keel, posterior marginals that are neither strongly reverted nor serrated, and a well-developed hinge. There is only a shallow indentation in the cervical region. The narrow, elongated cervical scute is followed by five broader than long vertebrals. Vertebral 5 is flared, and the supracaudal scute is undivided. The dark brown or blackish carapace has a variable pattern of light olive-brown to tan blotches on each pleural and vertebral scute. Old adults may approach uniform olive-brown or brown. The hingeless plastron is large with slightly projecting gular scutes and a shallow posterior notch on the short hindlobe. Two moderately-sized axillaries and a large inguinal scute (in contact with the femoral scute) are present on each side. The plastral formula is abd > hum > an > pect >< fem > gul. The plastron is yellowish brown with darker radiations (which fade with age in adult males). The brown to tan or yellowish head is small to moderate, with a nonprojecting snout and a slightly hooked upper jaw. The prefrontal scale is subdivided; the frontal scale is entire. The forelimbs have large, overlapping scales on the anterior surface, and the forefoot has five claws.
Males have concave plastra and longer, thicker tails. The plastra of the larger females is flat, and the tail is short.
Kinixys spekii ranges from Kenya south to Swaziland, adjacent Mozambique and Zululand in eastern Africa.
This tortoise inhabits savannahs and dry bush with rocky areas where it can use rock crevices and mammal burrows as refugia (Broadley, 1993; Hailey and Coulson, 1995). Lambiris et al. (1987) reported that in Zimbabwe male tortoises move from wooded grassland and grassland in the wet season towards pure woodland, and become slightly increased in grassland with the approach of dry winter; females also move from wooded grassland and grassland in the wet season toward pure woodland with the approach of dry winter, but show decreased numbers in grassland in winter (Kinixys spekii biotope). Many aestivate during the very hot, dry winter months.
Most behavior, ecology and reproductive data for this species have been reported under the name K. belliana, from which information can not be easily separated.
Lambiris et al. (1987) did not observe mating or nesting during their Zimbabwe study, but did note that during the breeding season (September-November) males follow the path of females, suggesting use of scent trails. Nesting period covers November to April (Broadley, 1989b); up to six (usually 2-3) slightly elongated to spherical (33.2-46.4 x 28.3-34.2 mm) eggs comprise a normal clutch (Broadley, 1989b; Hailey and Coulson, 1996). Hatchlings have 30-50 mm carapaces and are found from November to April.
Like other members of this genus, K. spekii is omnivorous, feeding on herbs, invertebrates and fungi (Hailey and Coulson, 1995).
IUCN Red List Status (1996)