Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tiny Tortoise On The Brink Of Extinction

The smallest tortoise in the northern hemisphere is also the rarest tortoise in the world.

The Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) rarely grows to over four inches in diameter. Unfortunately for this small chelonian, that gives them a very high cute factor.

Being almost unbearably cute, these poor creatures have been decimated by the illegal pet trade. Thousands have been taken from their homes in the deserts of the Middle East and shoved into cramped shipping crates bound for distant shores.

Sadly, the Egyptian tortoise is completely extinct in Egypt. The few remaining subpopulations, mainly in Lybia, each contain less than a thousand adults. Females only produce a few eggs a year, and the young won't reach breeding age for another twenty years, so the numbers in the wild might not be enough to sustain a comeback for these tiny tortoises.

It is possible that these wonderful creatures may already be doomed.

I refuse to accept that, however. As long as a few breeding pairs remain, there is always hope.

On May 21st, 2007, a zoo in Rome successfully bred a pair in captivity that had been rescued from a smuggler's suitcase in 2005. Other zoos have since followed suit.


The future of these creatures rests entirely in our hands. Let's hope that we are up to the challenge.


  1. I remember going to a waterfall in the forest here ten yeas ago. There were small green turtles everywhere. Five years later, with a camera..I went back to photograph them..there is already a road and cemented walkways along the waterfall. No more turtles sadly..just an etch in my memory..Nice article..wishing people cares more for the environment...

  2. Oh my gosh! I have to stop by your blog everyday! You have some of the coolest articles on your blog. This is so amazing and heartbreaking. feelingsomekindaway.blogspot.com