Indian Star Tortoise - Geochelone elegans

As its common name suggests, Geochelone elegans (Testudines - Testudinidae) is a species of tortoise found in three areas of the Indian subcontinent, including territories of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The carapace is the most striking feature of this tortoise and can have smooth to almost pyramidal scutes. Each scute has a yellowish areola (center) with yellow or tan lines radiating from it, forming the star shape for which this species is named. Females are often markedly larger than males. An adult male’s carapace typically grows to a straight-line length of 15-20 cm, and females reach 25-30 cm.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Gabri Mtnez | Locality: Sri Lanka (2014)

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Burmese Starred Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) - 

Because of its beautiful shell and easy meat, this small tortoise has been poached and hunted nearly to extinction.  (Not to be confused with the Indian Star Tortoise).

It lives in the dry forests and grasslands of Myanmar.  Since they are so few, not many studies have been made on them in the wild.  Little is known except that they do not dig burrows, they do not hibernate and they are diurnal.  They eat grasses and leaves, and sometimes insects and larvae.  

About 90% of the world’s Burmese Star Tortoise population is in captivity.  A group of researches spent 400 hours in Burma with specially trained dogs.  They only found 5.  Wikipedia. 


Anapsids in the AMNH.
The giant Stupendemys, the Megalochelys atlas (referred as Geochelone), a Scutosaurus (and a small Hypsognathus at the left) and finally a Proganochelys.
Photos by me.

Anápsidos en el AMNH.
El gigante Stupendemys, el Megalochelys atlas, el primitivo Scutosaurus (y un pequeño Hypsognathus a la izquierda) y finalmente un Proganochelys.
Fotos mías.

These lovely ladies show off some of Myanmar’s most beautiful residents. Burmese Star Tortoises (Geochelone platynota) are listed as Critically Endangered and have become ecologically extinct in the wild. The Turtle Conservancy breeds more of these amazing animals than anyone else in the United States.

A beautiful yet Critically Endangered Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) at our conservation center. This individual is part of our assurance colony keeping the species from the brink of extinction.

Assurance colonies in Myanmar and abroad are the last hope for the Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota). A species that is ecologically extinct in the wild. The Turtle Conservancy works diligently to protect this Critically Endangered Species, and our primary goal is to see them in the wild once again.

There are herp people out there that care.

Hello followers,

I rarely sit down and write on here, as this blog is more of a photo portfolio and personal “field guide” of the wild reptiles and amphibians (as well as other native flora and fauna) that I encounter during my outdoor excursions. However, I felt that a recent conversation with a wonderful and caring herp keeper warranted some text.

As I work as the Animal Care and Operation Director of a herp-centric, educational organization, I often receive contacts from people who wish to re-home their captive herps. These contacts range from families who wish for their pet to be interacted with more (kids are all grown up and off to college and Bandy the California Kingsnake can’t tag along) to people regretting their purchase of a neonate Green Anaconda (now at adult size with a nasty temperament to match). I am here to help and in NO WAY chastising these people.

A person called me in regards to a Sulcata Tortoise (Geochelone [Centrochelys] sulcata) that they could no longer house. They had raised this mega-fauna species from a neonate (golfball size) to a now nearly full grown, 100 pound, wheel barrel sized animal. Things in life change and sometimes things that one once thought as permanent may not be. That is fine- it is life. 

Instead of looking for an easy drop-off of their tortoise, they researched long and hard for a forever home for their friend. Nothing but the best would do. Not a pet shop looking for a quick buck. Not a backyard hobbyist with a less than optimal pen. They wanted a place where the tortoise could roam over some acreage with “not too many steep hills and fields of grass and dandelions to graze upon”.  

This was amazing to hear. I have been immersed in the world of herpetology and herpetoculture (albeit, I am more field herper than a keeper) all my life and rarely do I meet people with such love and respect for their animal. Although I couldn’t adopt the tortoise, I offered the best suggestions I had towards leads to such a place. I congratulated the keeper for not only being able to raise such an animal from neonate to adulthood, but also thanked them for being so caring.

I cut this little blurb short for the sake of time and space, but I hope anyone reading this gets the idea. 

Reptile and amphibians are not like dogs or cats. They are not vocal about their feelings or needs. Physically, it may take a very long time for them to show distress, malnutrition, and fatigue. It is up to the herp keeper to know the signs and offer the best care. Do your homework before adding that Aldabra Tortoise to your chelonian collection. Take a step back and visualize what it would be like to own a Gaboon Viper. That 14 inch baby Retic? Think about it 5 years from now.

Thanks for reading,


Instagram: @zacharge 

This week officials confiscated several Critically Endangered Burmese Start Tortoises (Geochelone platynota) in Thailand. They had been stolen from a wildlife sanctuary in Myanmar. The perpetrators were caught trying to sell them on Facebook. Two have been arrested. These animals were positively identified when anti-poaching tattoo markings on their plastrons, which had clearly been sanded off, were discovered. The Turtle Conservancy helped develop and implement this technique of marking Burmese Stars with tattoos, and like all methods of conservation, it is never foolproof. Tattooing is one of the many tools we are using and hope to develop in the future to help stop the illegal trade. Not only does it deter poachers by making the animals less desirable, it also helps identify the animals if they do end up in the trade. The TC has created a similar marking system, engravings on the carapace, for Ploughshare Tortoises in Madagascar. We are working on ways to implement these techniques on other heavily trafficked species. As a global partner in the fight against the illegal trade in turtles and tortoises, the Turtle Conservancy has worked closely with the Thai government to help prevent the trade of Critically Endangered Ploughshare and Radiated Tortoises. We also support and partner with TRAFFIC to mitigate the trade in Asia. As we continue to develop anti-poaching systems, we hope to see far fewer smuggled animals in the trade.
(See link below for more details on the incident)