In the last 5 years, hundreds, possibly thousands, of Egyptian tortoises (Testudo kleinmanni) have been exported from Cairo to the United States. Many of these captives fare badly, dying after only weeks or months in confinement. Captive breeding has been exceptionally infrequent. It is hoped that the commercial exploitation of this species will soon cease. Most tortoises wind up in the hands of individuals who are likely to have access to this publication. In the meantime, in an effort to be of assistance regarding the husbandry of T. kleinmanni, the following information is offered.
The 36 literature references below exclude species accounts found in well-known popular and scientific books on turtles and tortoises of the world. Most of them are abridgements of works listed here, and were authored by researchers who have never examined a specimen of T. kleinmanni, living or dead. Also omitted are two Egyptian biochemical treatises, which used the tissue of vast numbers of sacrificed specimens. Such works have no relevance for captive maintenance, breeding, or conservation.
In works of more than a few pages not dealing exclusively with T. kleinmanni, only the pertinent page numbers are given. Photographs, if present, are described.
Anderson, J. 1896. Herpetology of Arabia. SSAR reprint edition 1984. On page 68 the author cites Forskål's posthumous report (1775) that a tortoise, which Anderson believes might be T. leithii (= T. kleinmanni) occurs in what is now northwestern Yemen. Forskål, incidentally, is inadvertently responsible for the misused, mismatched, misunderstood trinomial Testudo graeca terrestris and died of the plague in 1763.
Anderson, J. 1898. Zoology of Egypt: Reptilia and Batrachia. Bernard Quaritch, London. Pages 28-30 provide an accurate descriptive account, comparing this tortoise to other Mediterranean tortoises and discussing its range, relying considerably upon Lortet (1887). Plate II provides 3 excellent life-size figures.
Arbel, A. 1984. Testudo kleinmanni. Reptiles and Amphibians. Plants and Animals of the Land of Israel, an illustrated encyclopedia. Volume 5, pages 37-38. Ministry of Defense Publishing House/Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Largely accurate, this account provides diagnostic criteria distinguishing this tortoise from T. graeca and summarizes its natural history. Arbel is the first writer to refer to the absence of dark markings whatsoever on some specimens' plastrons; his photo of a lumpy, captive-bred juvenile is regrettable. In Hebrew.
Bodenheimer, F. S. 1935. L. Mayer Press, Jerusalem. Three sentences on page 197 deal with the presence of this species, as T. leithii, in the Negeb Desert--the first report from what is now Israel since Tristram (1884).
Buskirk, J. 1985. The endangered Egyptian tortoise, Testudo kleinmanni: status in Egypt and Israel. Ninth International Herpetological Symposium on Captive Propagation and Husbandry. McKeown, Caporaso & Peterson, eds., 35-52. Summarizes natural history literature to date and shares author's generally negative experiences with Egyptian zoo and wildlife officials. Incorporates personal communication from two leading Israeli T. kleinmanni researchers, Geffen and Mendelssohn. Two figures, 1 map, extensive bibliography.
Buskirk, J. 1990. The plight of the Egyptian tortoise. Tortuga Gazette 26(6):7-8. Originally the text accompanied a poster display to encourage Desert Tortoise Council attendees to petition the Israeli government to set aside a reserve for T. kleinmanni encompassing the largest population in that country. The topic is still being debated (11/92).
Calabresi, E. 1924. Missione Zoologica del Dr. E. Festa in Cirenaica. Bollettino dei Musei di Zoologia ed Anatomia comparata della R. Universita di Torino 38:7-8. First record of the species for Libya, with brief discussion of sympatricity with "T. ibera". The single specimen found had symmetrical supernumerary costal shields. In Italian.
Flower, S. S. 1926. Species of land tortoises of the genus Testudo found in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Copeia, 133. Small is beautiful: Flower's concise tabular key to the 4 species remains accurate today and is bereft of esoteric jargon and gobbledegook.
Flower, S. S. 1929. List of the vertebrated animals exhibited in the gardens of the Zoological Society of London, 1828-1927. Vol. 3 (Reptiles), p. 29. London. Six T. kleinmanni, donated by John Anderson, were presented to the London Zoo on 5/26/1892. Flower was unaware that Calabresi (1924) had recorded this species from Libya.
Flower, S. S. 1933. Notes on the recent reptiles and amphibians of Egypt. Proc. Zoological Society of London, 743-749. For decades, the account of this tortoise outshone all prior and subsequent works. Author describes individual variation in great detail but discounts geographic significance. He describes sexual dimorphism and reproduction (including captive breeding), record sizes and weight, and compares the hatchling with that of T. graeca, among other achievements.
Geffen, E. 1985. On the biology of the Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) in Holot Agur, Israel. Master's thesis, Dept. of Zoology, Tel Aviv University. Eighty-three pages in Hebrew, with 4-page English summary. The most complete document to date on the natural history of this tortoise. Optimal air temperatures for this species lie between 71-76°F. A list of natural food items appears on p. 60. Loaded with information!
Geffen E. & H. Mendelssohn 1986. The sand tortoise in Israel--present and future. Teva v'Aretz (Nature & Land) 6:26-27. Presents the needs for conservation measures on behalf of this species after listing natural and human threats to its survival in Israel. Map, photos. In Hebrew.
Geffen E. & H. Mendelssohn 1988. Home range use and seasonal movements of the Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) in the northwestern Negev, Israel. Herpetologica, 44:354-359. Interprets use of home range of 9 tortoises equipped with radio transmitters over 4- to 18-month periods.
Geffen E. & H. Mendelssohn 1989. Activity patterns and thermoregulatory behavior of the Egyptian Tortoise Testudo kleinmanni in Israel. J. Herpetology 23:404-409. Self-explanatory title, further discussing the decline of this species throughout its range. This species is the only known temperate chelonian which is active in winter and dormant in summer.
Geffen E. & H. Mendelssohn 1991. Preliminary study on the breeding pattern of the Egyptian tortoise, Testudo kleinmanni, in Israel. Herpetological J., 1:574-577. A portable x-ray generator was used to confirm gravid status of females after which gravid individuals were kept in a natural enclosure and released after nesting. Females lay 2-3 clutches per year of 1-3 large eggs at 20-30 day intervals.
Groombridge, B. 1982. Egyptian Tortoise Testudo kleinmanni Lortet 1883. The IUCN Amphibia-Reptilia red data book, Part 1, 133-136. Gland, Switzerland. "Indeterminate" status is given to this species. A critical analysis of geographic records is followed by a discussion of habitat, density, predation, and the need for conservation, based largely on information provided by H. Mendelssohn (see below).
Günther, A. 1869. Report on two collections of Indian reptiles. Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 500-507, figs. 1-4, pls. xxxviii-xl. Original description of this tortoise as Testudo leithii, based on a specimen brought to Günther from what is now Pakistan. How it got to Pakistan is still a mystery, as is its true origin.
Hoath, R. 1990. Wild for sale. Cairo Today--the magazine of Egypt. October 1990:60-64. In this alarming account of the domestic exploitation of Egyptian wildlife, the author includes 2 disturbing photos of tortoises for sale, piled several deep.