Kinixys belliana nogueyi occurs in tropical western Africa. It is a small tortoise (up to 22 cm long) and differs from the other members of the Kinixys genus in having only 4 claws on the front feet. Its shell is rather tubular in shape, and may be a uniform yellowish brown color or have an attractive dark brown pattern somewhat similar to that of the pancake tortoise.
The genus Kinixys is unique in the turtle world in that it is the only genus in which a hinge is found on the carapace. This hinge enables a "hinge-back" to close down the rear of its shell to protect itself from predators. The hinge is not present at hatching, but only develops as the tortoise matures. The anterior marginal scutes are also quite elongated, allowing the tortoise to withdraw its head quite far back into its shell.
We currently have four adult Kinixys belliana nogueyi, 1 male and 3 females. They are wild caught specimens. All of them were heavily parasitized with both ecto- and endo-parasites when they were acquired and we took aggressive measures to treat them. The tick removal was easy but the various internal parasites required several rounds of treatment to bring them under control. Medicating by gavage was a very tedious and frustrating process because the tortoises were shy and stayed deeply retracted in their shells. After parasite suppression was finally accomplished, the tortoises seemed to feel better, becoming more active and spending less of their time withdrawn into their shells. We feel that without treatment, these animals would most certainly have died.
When we first acquired our hinge-backs, we kept them indoors in a 150 gallon aquarium with a damp newspaper substrate to facilitate easy cleaning and cleanliness. The glass lid was closed except for a crack, and this kept the humidity high (90-100%). A 4' Vitalite provided a 12 hour light/dark photoperiod. During the winter, a Chromlux 60 watt light bulb with a Microclimate thermostat set at 82°F was used as a supplementary heat source during the day. At night, the temperature dropped to that of the house. The average temperatures were 80°-85°F during the day and 68°-72°F at night. Occasionally, the interior of the vivarium became wet, so we would open the top and let it dry out. The tortoises would then become completely inactive until we "made it rain" by pouring in water from a watering can. There would then be a frenzy of activity. For the most part though, our tortoises tend to be some what reclusive, regularly spending days at a time in their hide-box before coming out to eat. This behavior has also been reported from the wild. When they are active they spend much of their time soaking and defecating in their water dish. The females will occasionally get into short shoving matches or bite off each others' rear toenails.
We currently keep the hinge-backs in a greenhouse. Their area is 2' x 11' with a 2' x 3' sleeping area that they are closed into at night. The sleeping area has a concrete floor covered with a Stanfield Hog Heating pad attached to a temperature controller. The air temperature in the sleeping area is maintained with a space heater set at 82°F, and a fogger system maintains the humidity in both the greenhouse and the sleeping area. The air temperature inside the greenhouse reaches 100°F regularly. The ground, however, stays cooler and there is always shade available. An evaporative cooler comes on when the temperature goes over 100°F to prevent overheating.