Common Name: Burmese Brown Mountain Tortoise
Scientific Name: Manouria Emys Emys
Current Size: 2"+
Average Adult Size: 16-22"
Area of Origin: Southeast Asia, Borneo
Description: These dark colored tortoises are considered the most prehistoric tortoises alive today. Their ancient look combined with their outgoing personalities have kept them a popular tortoise in the more humid Southern states. They are a large tortoise, considered by many to be the 4th largest tortoise in the world, just behind the sulcata tortoises of Africa. Somewhat of a flattened tortoise, they are born a somewhat brown color and darken to black in their first few years.
Habitat: These tortoises prefer heavily planted enclosures with heavily shaded areas. They don't handle weather extremes very well, and should ideally be kept between about 60-95 degrees. Moderate to high humidity is preferred by them, and they like shallow water dishes of pools to soak and drink in. They do not truly hibernate, but will go through a winter slow down period during cooler weather and shortened daylengths. As adults, they can safely handle body temperatures as low as 50 degrees at night as long as they are able to heat up into the 70's during the day. Summer highs up to 95 degrees can be tolerated as long as there is a cooler, shaded retreat the tortoise can get into. Moisture is not a problem in warmer temperatures (a cool mud hole on a hot day), but in cooler weather and on cold nights, the tortoises should be kept more dry.
Diet: Little is known about this species natural diet, but do well in captivity on a diet similar to a redfoot tortoise. We offer them a broad range of leafy greens, Mazuri tortoise diet, vegetables and a small amount of fruit. They will eat small amounts of meat sources, although this is probably not needed in captivity if they are getting the needed nutrients from other sources.
Adult Behavior: Often referred to as the "puppy dogs" of the tortoise world, Burmese mountain tortoises have a long standing reputation as friendly tortoises that are very interactive with their owners. Because of their eventual size, this species should only be considered by someone in a humid climate (or someone that can create a humid climate) ideally in a Southern state where this large animal can be maintained most or all of the year outside. It is not easy or reasonable to house them indoors long term, or over a long winter. These tortoises love rain during warm weather, and will become more active during rainfall. The Burmese mountain tortoises are also the only tortoise to "build nests," much like an alligator will. They will gather leaves, branches and debris from around their enclosure (over the course of weeks) and build a large mound, then lay eggs within the pile, and defend it for some time afterwards. They also lay large clutches of eggs, with reports of up to 70 eggs in a single clutch.
Our Current Care: During cooler weather or indoors, these tortoises are kept indoors on a cypress and/or coco coir substrate with a humid hidebox that they can get into at night. We raise them in cheap, simple plastic tubs that can be purchased at WalMart or Target, generally 3 to 4 square feet in size for babies. Temperatures in the room fluctuate between 75 at night up to 85 during the day, but we keep the hidebox heated to around 80-85 at night with a heat pad beind it, or a red bulb placed overhead.
Diet consists of spring mix greens with many other leafy greens, fruit and veggies offered in rotation to that (mulberry, bell pepper, apple, pear, melon, mango, papaya, endive, grape leaves, hibiscus leaves, and diced cactus pads). We like to also add moistened Mazuri tortoise diet as well as ZooMed's Gourmet Tortoise Food a few times a week, usually mixed and mashed into the leafy greens. The addition of the commercial diets take care of most or all of the supplementation needs, or you can sprinkle the food lightly with a calcium supplement 2 or 3 times a week and a multivitamin supplement 1-2 times a week. We also throw a pinch of our herbal hay on top of whatever they are eating almost daily, which adds variety and flavor and scent to everything.
The tortoises are removed from their enclosure and soaked in a separate 1/4" deep pan of warm water daily or almost daily for 30 minutes each time. We don't generally use water dishes in the enclosures because of the risk of drowning (yes, we have lost babies to drowning when they flipped over in 1/4" of water).
Being a tropical species, they don't need intense lighting, but they need lights on during the day and off at night to maintain a normal day/night cycle. We use full spectrum UVB lights, which we suggest for the growth of pretty, healthy tortoises, and use a simple spot bulb or ceramic heat emitter for heat in a small part of the enclosure to give them a "hot spot" around 90-95 degrees that they can get into if they want to warm up.
While these tortoises prefer higher humidity levels (60-90%), we don't use the "closed chamber" method (keeping airflow very restricted to increase humidity to the point that clouds form in the enclosure). It is very risky if/when temperatures get below about 80, and mold, shell rot, and respiratory problems become a lot more common in those conditions. We keep them open top in the warm area, and enclosed, warm and humid within the hide (like they would be in the wild). They are free to choose the conditions, temperatures, and humidity levels they want within that setup.