Fun Indian Star Tortoise Facts For Kids

Devangana Rathore
Oct 26, 2022 By Devangana Rathore
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Take a look at the life of the most colorful tortoise around with these Indian star tortoise facts!
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.9 Min

The Indian star tortoise, also called the Geochelone elegans, is a rare tortoise found in India and Sri Lanka. This tortoise species is one of the smallest ones around, especially considering their habitat which has consistently homed bigger species.

The Indian star tortoise size is just enough to fit your hands easily. However, they are one of the most trafficked tortoises across the world.

They, like many other reptiles, become inactive in the later months of winter, preferring to hibernate.

and this is when they are taken from their homes and smuggled to various nations. As such, it's super important to be aware of such activities, and do your bit in reducing their trafficking.

This species is a rare one and should be allowed to live in its home freely. Read on for some very interesting facts about the well-known Geochelone elegans, and get more information about different animals in our desert tortoise and olive ridley sea turtle facts articles too.

Indian Star Tortoise Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Indian star tortoise?

The Indian star tortoise, as the name suggests, is a type of tortoise.

What class of animal does an Indian star tortoise belong to?

The Indian star tortoise belongs to the reptile class.

How many Indian star tortoises are there in the world?

As a critically endangered species, there are less than 20,000 Indian star tortoises in the world. This is not only because their habitat is taken away from them, but also because of natural predators who eat their eggs and chip away at their species.

Where does an Indian star tortoise live?

Since they need humidity to survive and thrive, the Indian star tortoise is usually found in the woods, savanna, and wetlands. As such, locations like India and Sri Lanka, Southern India in particular, become great places for it to be!

What is an Indian star tortoise's habitat?

The Indian star tortoise thrives in areas with high humidity and temperature, vast spaces, and easy access to water. As such, places like scrub forests and, or places with an excessive rainy season become perfect for the Indian star tortoise.

This allows them to lay eggs in safety, and this environment can be usually found in nations like India and Sri Lanka.

Who do Indian star tortoise live with?

Even though they are not very territorial, the Indian star tortoise prefers to be on its own, taking the day to munch on grass or sleep the day away.

How long does an Indian star tortoise live?

In the wild, the Indian star tortoise lives from 30 to almost 80 years. However, captive tortoises survive for less than 25 years.

This was discovered after the unveiling of massive pet trade operations across the world. Therefore, it is not a good idea to keep them in captivity. They thrive outdoors and need sunlight, rain, humidity, and space to survive.

How do they reproduce?

If chosen by a female of the species, then the male will breed with her to reproduce. Sometimes, captive-bred tortoises are also born. They are born of eggs laid after breeding by the female Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans). The female of the species is also significantly larger than the male which helps them lay eggs easily.

What is their conservation status?

The Indian star tortoises are marked as Critically Endangered. This means that they are just one step away from extinction. The main reason for this is human intervention, which not only involves them in illegal trade and destroys their habitat, but also takes their eggs and sells them to tourists, especially from India and Sri Lanka.

Indian Star Tortoise Fun Facts

What do Indian star tortoises look like?

The Indian star tortoise has a small, round head with plated shields, a poorly curved nose, and small, beady eyes. Their shells are flat at the top and start coming around in a convex manner. These shells are covered with pale yellow patterns in the distinct shape of a star.

The Indian star tortoise is a species that lives in a warm, humid temperature.

How cute are they?

The Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) is a moderately cute animal. It carries one of the most colorful shells onto their backs in the tortoise family and is well-loved for it. But at the same time, it is scaly, and not very friendly to others.

So, are they cute? Maybe, a little. But their unique star-patterned shell is certainly something to marvel at.

How do they communicate?

The Indian star tortoise is not someone who enjoys being friendly and social. They prefer staying in their respective groves and sleeping the day off.

They are also not very territorial, but they can get very expressive at times. During mating season, they do display a lot of aggression by flipping over other males, pushing them, and forcing them to retreat to their shells.

How big is an Indian star tortoise?

The Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) is about 8-12 in. This is five times smaller than the biggest tortoise which is five feet in length!

How fast can an Indian star tortoise move?

A tortoise, moving fast? We've all heard the tortoise and the hare story. So while the tortoise might keep moving, speed is not one of its strengths.

At a low 0.1 mph, the tortoise is definitely not winning any fairly ran races. But they do tend to become very active when it is breeding season, or when there are high humidity and temperature, and of course, the rainy season. It is their core habitat, and where they thrive.

How much does an Indian star tortoise weigh?

Since it is on the smaller end of the tortoise comparison chart, it makes sense that the Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) is a measly 1.3-2.2 kg. Even when they grow up to their full sizes, they still remain smaller than the average Indian tortoise.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no one particular name for each gender of this tortoise species. They simply are referred to as male and female Indian star tortoises respectively. But when researching them in their natural habitat, scientists do give them affectionate pet names, which you can totally check out for cute pet name inspirations.

What would you call a baby Indian star tortoise?

We call them an adorable baby and no more. There is no fixed scientific name for a baby Indian star tortoise, so alas, as much as we would like them to have a good name, they do not. But do not despair!

Their scientific name as a species is Geochelone elegans which sounds way cooler than Indian star tortoises, right? Besides, it does not matter what name you give to them, since they can not hear anyway. Tortoises do not have the sense of hearing.

What do they eat?

As herbivores, they eat grass, flowers, and fruits. They particularly enjoy dark green leaves and colorful flower petals too!

Meat can be terrible for Indian star tortoises because it is hard to digest. If forcefully fed meat, they can fall very sick, and in many cases, die. So it would be a good idea for the Indian star tortoises to stick to leafy greens.

Are they poisonous?

Not at all! The Indian star tortoises are very docile, harmless, and in general very gentle creatures who just like to spend their days waddling in a swamp and sleeping off their time.

They have no poison in them, and it is perfectly safe to be with them. However, make sure you keep your fingers away from their mouths! While they may not be poisonous, they have a very sharp bite that can leave you with one finger less than what you came with.

Would they make a good pet?

It is not a good idea to keep Indian star tortoises as pets. Not only are they very high maintenance and expensive, but having them is also illegal.

The Indian Penal Code prohibits the trade and adoption of exotic animals such as Indian star tortoises. In addition, they need very specific conditions to thrive in and replicating them can be expensive and time-consuming for potential pet owners.

For an Indian star tortoise price, you could easily purchase or adopt any other pet! So why not go for an easier to maintain, and more commonly available tortoise instead?

Did you know...

Unlike other reptiles, the star tortoise leaves their eggs after laying them. This means that they provide no care for their babies after they hatch and that the young ones are left to fend for themselves in the wild!

This often ends up meaning that not many make it to adulthood. They can get eaten by fellow reptiles like snakes, or by birds, jackals, coyotes, and other smaller carnivorous creatures. But those who do survive, grow to live long lives - up till 80 years!

In addition, you can easily tell apart a male from a female Indian star tortoise! In this species, the female is always noticeably bigger than the male.

This means that Indian star tortoises have something called sexual dimorphism where the male and female of the species are of different sizes  (the origin of the word is 'di', meaning two, and 'morphism', meaning the physical form.)

Caring for an Indian star tortoise

Though regular people can not adopt Indian star tortoises, they are cared for in scientific facilities by expert handlers in an attempt to increase their population again. Up until now, they are only found in Southern India and Sri Lanka, and select areas in the Indian subcontinent.

As such, when delving into Indian star tortoise care, it is important to keep in mind three things - humidity, sunlight, and space.

Indian star tortoises need a lot of space to live. The bare minimum is a  six by six ft enclosure, with covered sides and a top in there are any external threats to it.

When kept indoors, they have to be exposed to UV lights for at least 12 hours per day to ensure that they get enough UV rays to keep their shells strong. In addition, they need to be in a moist and wet environment so they do not face any breathing problems.

They should have food available at all times because there is no fixed schedule at which they prefer to eat. You should give them baths very rarely - twice a month is the recommended amount. To do so, you should simply rinse them out with water, and use no soap, detergent, or any human-made cleaner.

In the winter months, they tend to become inactive and rest for long periods of time, so this is something one must keep in mind as well.  

The endangered Indian star tortoise

Indian star tortoises are an endangered species. This is because of the illegal pet trade, where their eggs are stolen and sold off into black markets outside of India.

In addition, this species is taken from their natural habitat and smuggled to countries like the USA, UK, Australia, and more.

This is why their population has fallen to the degree where they are classified as a Critically Endangered species by the IUCN Red List. Scientifically called the Geochelone elegans, this species lays eggs just in time for the monsoon to arrive.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including sand lizard facts, or bog turtle.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Indian star tortoise coloring pages.

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Written by Devangana Rathore

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language, Master of Philosophy

Devangana Rathore picture

Devangana RathoreBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language, Master of Philosophy

Devangana is a highly accomplished content writer and a deep thinker with a Master's degree in Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin. With a wealth of experience in copywriting, she has worked with The Career Coach in Dublin and is constantly looking to enhance her skills through online courses from some of the world's leading universities. Devangana has a strong background in computer science and is also an accomplished editor and social media manager. Her leadership skills were honed during her time as the literacy society president and student president at the University of Delhi.

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