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  • Sunshine 1

Fast Facts

  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Testudines
  • Family: Testudinae
  • Genus and Sp.: Agrionemys horsfieldii
Sunshine 2

Lifespan

40-50 years avg; up to 100 years!

Natural Habitat

Native to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, SE Russia and China; harsh, arid desert with sandy steppes and grassy regions within otherwise rocky and hilly terrain, hot in summer and cold in winter

Features

Carapace (upper shell) is rounded and almost as wide as it is long; unique in only having 4 (not 5) toes on forelimbs; 13-25 cm in length; males smaller with longer tails and when mature males' plastron (lower shell) becomes concave (the better to mate females with).

Diet

Grazing herbivores on grasses, flowers, fruits, twigs, leaves and stems; at TSZ they are fed salad with leafy greens, veggies, fruits and pellets

Fun Facts

  • In the wild, they have a very short period of activity - as short as 3 mos./year, coming out of brumation (state of hibernation) in spring to forage and mate. They dig very deep burrows (up to 2 meters) for protection from heat in the summer and cold in the winter; Here at TSZ the temperatures are kept stable so they do not go into this resting state.
  • Being very social, in the wild they often visit neighboring burrows and even have sleep-overs! Despite having separate "hides" Gilligan and Ginger can usually be found snugged up together.
  • Sunshine, Gilligan and Ginger serve as ambassadors for their species which are considered vulnerable due to exploitation throughout their vast range for food and the pet trade, while the loss of habitat from war, livestock grazing, farming and development have all contributed to their decline.
  • A group of tortoises is called a "creep"
  • Tortoises cannot swim; BUT they can hold their breath for a very long time.
  • In order to retract into her shell, she must exhale first to empty the air out of her lungs to make room! Thus, if startled, you may hear this sudden exhale.
  • Tortoises all have both an exoskeleton and endoskeleton. The exoskeleton is the shell which has a carapace on top, plastron underneath and a bridge that joins them together. Inside, they have ribs, a spine and a collar bone just like us!
  • Top speed: 8 km/hr
  • Tortoises' method of defense inspired ancient armies in Rome: under attack the army would go in to "Testudo" formation - lining up in rows while raising their shields above or in front of them to completely cover the whole unit.