The elongated or yellow-headed tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) occurs in tropical southeast Asia, being found in parts of northeast India, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. Elongated tortoises inhabit humid upland forest areas, but they have been observed basking on open ground in India during extreme heat. As the common names suggest, these up to 1 foot-long tortoises have elongated somewhat narrow carapaces and yellow heads. The carapaces are a yellowish-brown color, often with black "smudges" on each scute. Males have a plastral concavity and much longer tails than the females. The only similar tortoise, the Travencore tortoise, I. forsteni, lacks the nuchal scute found in I. elongata and is rarely seen in the United States.
My long-lasting interest in the elongated tortoise began back in 1977 when I bought my original pair from a local pet store over 15 years ago. During the last nine years they have produced 45 offspring. In the last two years, young from the first clutch of eggs from the original pair have themselves produced offspring.
As with all my tortoises, the adults and sub-adults are housed outdoors all year round, where they have free range of a large yard. Houses, heated using pig-blankets or electrical bricks, are available as warm retreats. The southern Californian climate is mild enough for the elongata to venture outside almost every day for at least a short time. They tend to return to the heated houses at night under their own steam, and are locked in the houses at night. Early shut-in times, necessitated if I am away for the evening, often conflict with the wishes of the elongated tortoises, which prefer to be out until late at night. However, confining them is necessary to keep them safe from nocturnal prowlers (raccoons live in the area) and to ensure that they keep warm at night. If they are still feeding at this time they are allowed to finish. If a female is laying or preparing to lay it may be midnight before she can be locked up. Although the houses are unlocked early in the morning, the elongated tortoises often will not come out until late in the day.
Each day the elongated tortoises are offered a mixture consisting of Italian parsley, parsley, mustard greens, dandelion, spinach, kale, turnip greens and collard greens. They are also offered Pure Pride 100 pellets (a horse chow made by Purina), which are eagerly taken, mixed with guinea-pig pellets. Prior to using the horse chow, I used to offer cat chow, moistened by soaking in water, as a protein source. Once or twice a week they are also fed shredded carrots, zucchini squash, yams, pumpkin and mixed vegetables (which they adore), and fruit such as banana peelings and cantaloupe. The amount of fruit is limited because it attracts flies. The elongateds do some grazing, usually on leafy or flowering plants such as hibiscus and very rarely on grass. They are very fond of snails which they eat whole. Cuttlebones and eggshells are provided as a supplemental calcium source.
Small rocks, usually smooth river gravel, are present in their droppings so regularly that I consider this a normal occurrence. Almost all of my elongateds seem to eat them. Bathing water is available at all times, but although they often take long drinks of water, they do not wallow very often. They seem to tolerate the dry air very well, and their skin certainly doesn't appear to get as dry as that of the red-footed tortoises.