German Journal of Herpetology

Shoo, R., M. Nassoro & R. T. Mwaya

In Issues 2022

The effects of handling on natural populations of the Critically Endangered Pancake Tortoise, Malacochersus tornieri (Testudines: Testudinidae). pp. 151-156.

Abstract. Despite its low population densities and restricted geographical distribution in the eastern and southern African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia, the Pancake Tortoise, Malacochersus tornieri (Siebenrock 1903), has been the most exploited species for the international pet trade. Whilst being extracted from their hiding rock crevices, and on handling, these tortoises have frequently been observed to void faeces, presumably as a response to handling stress. However, the potential effects of handling on these animals are unknown and have never been evaluated. The present study was conducted at two sites outside the Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, with two objectives: i) to establish the proportion of individual Pancake Tortoises that respond to handling by humans with faecal elimination, and ii) to evaluate the amount of water lost through faecal elimination. Thirty-one Pancake Tortoises were encountered and handled, and 22 (70.97%) excreted faeces within an average of five minutes of handling. The mean percentage of water contained in the excreted faecal wet mass was 82% (SD ± 10, N = 22), suggesting that their faecal mass was essentially water. Whereas handling stress alone may not have a lasting negative impact, the physiological impact of lost body fluid may constitute a more significant problem.

Key words. Critically Endangered, dehydration, faecal elimination, Malacochersus tornieri, semi-arid. 

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