Natal hinge-back tortoise
|Natal hinge-back tortoise|
The Natal hinge-back tortoise (Kinixys natalensis) is a species of turtle in the Testudinidae family. Its natural habitat is a relatively small stretch of land along the borders of Mozambique, South Africa, and Swaziland.
It is one of the smallest of the Hinged Tortoises, averaging between 8 and 14 cm in length. Its hinge, on the underside of its shell, is also poorly developed compared to its relatives, being restricted to the marginals. This rudimentary hinge only develops later, and is absent in juveniles. The small tail terminates in a distinctive spike.
The scutes on its relatively elongated shell usually have concentric dark and light rings. Females are larger than males and usually more boldly marked. Unlike the other hinged tortoises, the males do not have a concave belly.
Habitat and distribution
This rare tortoise is naturally found in the area around the far eastern border of South Africa. It occurs mainly in the province of Kwazulu-Natal but also in the eastern parts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, as well as in the neighbouring countries of Swaziland and border of Mozambique.
In its natural habitat, it inhabits rocky, dry areas. It also hibernates in winter.
Threats and conservation
This tortoise is rare and considered near-threatened. It inhabits a narrow range, and is in decline due to habitat destruction and collecting - for food and for the pet trade. Many also die on the roads when they are hit by cars which they are not fast enough to avoid.
Many individuals are removed from their natural habitat by motorists who see them by the roads and pick them up. By taking them home, people remove them from their habitat and from the foods they can eat.
- Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group 1996. Kinixys natalensis. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 29 July 2007.
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