The IncredibleTortoise – 50 Species Worldwide


In the UK, keeping certain species of tortoises as pets without a license is legal. However, owners must follow strict rules and regulations to ensure the animal’s well-being. For instance, the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 requires owners to provide their tortoises with adequate food, water, housing, and medical care.
Owners must also ensure that the temperature and humidity levels in the tortoise’s environment are appropriate for its species.

Is Keeping a Tortoise Legal?

Taking a tortoise from the wild in its natural habitat in other countries and keeping it as a pet in the UK is illegal. Potential tortoise owners should research the specific needs of the species they are interested in before bringing one home. Some tortoises require more space and specialized care than others. Purchasing a tortoise from a reputable breeder or dealer is also crucial to ensure it was not illegally taken from the wild. By following these guidelines, tortoise owners can provide a safe and healthy environment for their beloved pets while also contributing to conservation efforts.

All tortoises must be bred in captivity or imported from a country that permits the export of tortoises. Furthermore, some species of tortoises are prohibited from being kept as pets altogether due to concerns over conservation and animal welfare. These prohibited species include the Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise and the Hermann’s tortoise.


The Origin of Tortoises

Tortoises are believed to have originated in Africa over 200 million years ago. They are classified under the family Testudinidae, which includes over 50 species of tortoises found in different parts of the world. Some of the most common tortoise species found in Africa include the African spurred tortoise, leopard tortoise, and the sulcata tortoise. They are known for their thick shells, small heads, and large legs that help them move slowly.
One fascinating aspect of tortoises is their life span. Tortoises can live for many decades, with some species living up to 100 years. The Galapagos tortoise is known to be one of the longest-lived species, with some individuals living for over 150 years. This is attributed to their slow metabolism, which enables them to conserve energy and survive for long periods without food and water.

The Lifespan of Tortoises

Determining the exact age of a tortoise can be difficult, as they do not have external signs of ageing as humans do. In general, their size, weight, and shell condition can give some indication of their age, as the shell will become thicker and heavier with age. However, the most accurate method of determining the age of a tortoise is through a process called skeletochronology, which involves examining growth rings in the animal’s bones to estimate its age. This process can be invasive and is typically only used for scientific research purposes.

The average lifespan of a tortoise varies widely by species but is generally much longer than most other animals. For example, some species live to be only 30 years old, while others, like the giant tortoise, can live for more than a hundred years.
Jonathan the tortoise is the world’s oldest known living land animal, estimated to have hatched in 1832, making him 190 years old as of 2023. He is a Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa) and has lived on one of the most remote islands in the world, where he has become well-known and somewhat of a media star.

Tortoises in Different Cultures

Many cultures worldwide view the tortoise as a symbol of longevity, stability, and wisdom due to its long lifespan, slow movement, sturdiness, and wrinkled appearance. In some cultures, they are believed to carry the world on their backs, while in others, they represent fertility and prosperity. In Chinese mythology, the tortoise is associated with the god of longevity and is one of the four sacred animals. In addition, some Native American tribes believe the tortoise represents a connection to the earth and the spirit world.

The Mating Ritual

Tortoises are also known for their unique mating patterns. They are slow-growing creatures, and it can take several years for them to reach sexual maturity. When it is time to mate, male tortoises become more aggressive towards females and engage in physical contact with them. They also vocalize and use scent to attract females. Once the female is ready to mate, the male will climb on top of her to fertilize the eggs.


Owners of pet tortoises in the UK should also be aware of the potential health risks associated with keeping a tortoise as a pet. For example, tortoises can carry Salmonella, which can be transmitted to humans through contact with their faeces, shells, or skin. Therefore, owners should sanitize their hands and surfaces that come into contact with the tortoise. Overall, while tortoises can make fascinating and rewarding pets, owners in the UK must follow the rules and regulations in place to ensure their welfare and avoid any legal issues.

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