Common Name: Forstens Tortoise
Scientific Name: Indotestudo Forstenii
Current Size: 2"
Average Adult Size: 10-12"
Area of Origin: Celebes Islands, Indonesia
Description: Charcoal shell color mottled with lighter patterns very randomly. Most adults have a fair split overall of cream color and the darker black color. Babies can be somewhat variable, with a small percentage having an almost completely cream color (similar to baby elongated tortoises). These tortoises have large solid black eyes, which help them see well in their preferred low light habitats. Adults are often confused with elongated tortoises.
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 dry. This species prefers low light conditions, and on summer evenings is often out wandering around just after dark, when most other tortoises have been sleeping for hours. It is again active in the early morning hours whenever temperatures are in a comfortable range for it.
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: Wild caught forstens tortoises are somewhat shy and secretive tortoises, but captive raised ones seem to shake this stereotype. They are usually unaggressive towards eachother and can usually be kept long term in mixed-sex groups. They are not diggers, rarely digging holes. They will spend often spend the mid-day hidden, and will be most active in the mornings and evenings during the warm months.
Our Current Care: During cooler weather or indoors, these tortoises are kept indoors on 2-3" deep moistened 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.