Herpetology of Ethiopia and Eritrea


Our records => Testudines, Batsch 1788


Kinixys belliana GRAY 1831


Short description:
Rather a medium sized tortoise, total lenght of about 250 mm; dorsum colour variable. Brown, brownish-green or dark brown with yellow blotches in the middle of carapace shields, especially in young specimens. Plastron gray or yellow with darker pattern. The rear part of the carapace partially movable with noticeable seam. The carapace at the back more arched, forwardly decreases and flattens. On the front legs five toes with claws, rarely four. Population living in the Rift Valley and around Addis Ababa have more varied coloration, the population from the western highlands of Ethiopia are rather a single color gray-green on dorsum.
Original description from GRAY 1831: The thorax convex, rather depressed in front, convex and rather elevated behind. The front margin deeply but roundly nicked in the middle, and roundly extended on the sides. The lateral margin convex, rounded, without any prominent ridge, perhaps rounded by the shell being old and worn. The hinder margin evenly rounded, slightly refexed, and the edge scolloped by the centre of the marginal plates being slightly produced. The shields pale yellow, rather convex, deeply concentrically lined; the lines become more shallow and closer together as they approach the margin. The areolae moderate; in the discal plate central, and in the marginal plates sub-central, being rather near the hinder edge. The fourth and fifth vertebral plates the most convex, and rather prominent in the centre. Marginal plates 24; the nuchal one is long and narrow, the caudal one is about one-third broader than the others of the hinder margin. The sternum flat, rather bent up in front and rounded, ascending on the sides, produced and truncated before and behind. The sides of the anterior and posterior lobes slightly produced and; rounded. The axillary plate small, the inguinal plates large. of shell 8 inches, of sternum 7¼; inches; breadth at hinder joint 6, and over the axillary plates 5 inches. This species is intermediate between the two before described; it agrees with K.Homeana, in having the nuchal plate, and with K. denticulata in the centre of the fourth and fifth vertebral late being convex. It differs from both in the margin notheing expandedand denticulated, and in the side edges of the front lobe of the sternum not being: reduced and wing-like, but this may be occasioned by the grail being much worn. The head with small flat-scales and two larger plates between the eyes over the nostrils, and one behind them. The jaws are nearly entire, the fore feet are covered front with large unequal convex scales, and have; five brunt subequal claws. The hind feet are covered with rather thin scales, they have four blunt claws, and large blunt claws-like scales at the heel. The. tail is short and thick, conical, scarcely longer than the edge of the shell.

Distribution:
In Ethiopia Rift Valley, north to Eritrea, west to Sudan. In Africa, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, N Tanzania.

Note:
Prefers semiarid areas at lower elevations, scrubland and trees savannah. Hiding in burrows in the rocks, the roots of shrubs ... etc. It feeds almost exclusively plant-based diet, only a small part of the diet consists of animals (insects, snails, body of dead animals..). And certain part of the diet is Caudexs of succulents. The females lay smaller number of eggs 3-7 in size 30 x 40 mm, which burrow into deep holes.

Our records:
Langano (Trailin); Langano (Trailin, Nečas, Lizler); Bidre (Trailin); Wachille (Mazuch); 40 km before Gambella (Trailin); Welkite (Trailin, Novak); Bedelle (Trailin, Lizler, Nečas);

Description original:
Gray, J. E.: Synopsis Reptilium or short descriptions of the species of reptiles. Part I: Cataphracta, tortoises, crocodiles, and enaliosaurians. Treuttel, Wurz & Co., London, 85 pp.

Common english name: Bell’s Hingeback Tortoise

K.belliana - Habitat, Langano lake, Rift Valley, Ethiopia



Centrochelys sulcata (MILLER 1779)


Short description:
One of the largest tortoises which occur on the continent. Reach up to 90 cm carapace long and weighing over 100 kg. The carapace rather flat than convex. Marginals shields on back are jutting. The carapace is brown or yellow-brown. The plastron is paler, two gulare in males elongated and curved, plastron of females flat, in males concave. Males are larger than females. On both sides of the tail two or three enlarged shield (spurs). Unmistakable species.
Beak weakly hooked, edge of jaws strongly dentate; prefrontal large, divided longitudinally; frontal usually large, rarely broken up; remaining upper head shields small, irregular; forelimb anteriorly with large unequal, juxtaposed or imbricate scutes, forming 3-6 longitudinal and 6-7 transverse series from elbow to outer claw; claws 5; posterior side of thigh with 2-3 large conical tubercles; heel with large, conical, spurlike, bony tubercles; claws 4; tail without terminal clawlike tubercle. Carapace flattened dorsally, sides descending abruptly, deeply notched in nuchal region, anterior and posterior margins reverted and serrated, not more than twice as long as deep; dorsal shields concentrically grooved; nuchal absent; vertebrals 5, not convex, the second, third and fifth much broader than long, broader than the costals; costals 4, not forming an angle with the marginals; marginals 11; supracaudal undivided. Front lobe of plastron somewhat produced and bifid; gulars paired; pectorals very narrow, their anterior border usually straight, widening abruptly towards the axillary notch; axillaries 2; outer moderate to small, inner minute; inguinals 2, outer large to moderate, inner small, meeting femoral; hind lobe deeply notched posteriorly, angular or crescentic. Color: Carapace of juvenile pale yellow, the shields with narrow brown sulci. Plastron yellowish white. Carapace of adult brownish to horn color, uniform. Plastron yellowish, uniform [LOVERIDGE].

Distribution:
Sub-Saharan region (Sahel) from the Atlantic Ocean (Senegal), to the Red Sea (Sudan, Eritrea).
In Ethiopia, the most northwestern part, adjacent to Eritrea and Sudan, around border river Setit (Eritrea). In Eritrea western part, south to Ethiopia border.     

Note1:
This species inhabits very hot and dry semi-desert and dry savannah. They feed on various plants, they also nibble the leaves of spiny acacia trees. During the dry season and extreme heat weather they hiding in burrows, or in shrubs. In the east, (Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia) is hatching of juveniles timed at the beginning of the summer. Females lays about 30 spherical eggs, with a diameter of 40-50 mm, in deep pits. Incubation time is from 90 to 150 days depending on the temperature. Juveniles are often becoming as prey for birds, dragons or beasts. Adult animals are basically are vulnerable just by human.

Note2:
In Khartoum, I saw these turtles breed in a fenced sand place around 10 x 5 m, where they lived in the number of 15 pieces. Turtles ther regularly reproduced.

Description original:
Miller, L.: Icones animalium et plantarum (Various subjects of natural history, wherein are delineated birds, animals, and many curious plants . . .). Letterpress, London. 10 pp. [published 1776-1782]

Common english name: African Spurred Tortoise

Centrochelys sulcata - habitat, Keren, Eritrea



Stigmochelys pardalis BELL 1828


Short description:
A large turtoise with the unmistakable shape of the carapace. On the front legs five, on the rear four claws. The dorsum Yellowish-brown, in some specimens, especially in large and old animals brown with a small proportion of yellow. But the young turtles are very colorful. Adult turtles can reach a length of 70 cm and rarely weighing up to 40 kg. Mostly, however, tend to be smaller. The plastron of adult males concave.
Beak scarcely to strongly hooked, edge of jaws strongly dentate; prefrontal large, frequently single but usually divided longitudinally; frontal broken up; remaining upper head; shields small, irregular; forelimb anterior1y with large, unequal, usually scattered or rarely juxtaposed, generally imbricate, scutes, forming 3-4 longitudinal and 7-9 transverse series from elbow to outer claw; claws 5; hinder side of thigh with 2 or more very large, rarely small, conical tubercles; heel with large, conical, spurlike tubercles; claws 4; tail without terminal clawlike tubercle. Carapace very convex, sides descending abruptly, deeply notched in nuchal region except in the very young, anterior margins not, and posterior margins only sometimes, expanded, reverted, and more or less strongly serrated; dorsal shields concentrically striated, sometimes swollen, subconical or convex; nuchal absent; vertebrals 5, rarely 6, more or less convex, first as broad as, or broader than, long, the rest broader than long, broader than the costals; costals 4, rarely 5, not forming an angle with the marginals; marginals 10, 11 or 12; 2 supracaudal undivided, somewhat incurved. Plastron with front lobe not or but slightly produced and not or but weakly notched; gulars paired; pectorals very narrow, their anterior border usually straight, widening abruptly towards the axillary notch; axillaries 2, one large, the other minute; inguinal moderate, normally in contact with the femoral, rarely separated ;3 hind lobe deeply or slightly notched posteriorly, usually angular, occasionally crescentic, 4 an interanal scute sometimes present.
Color: Carapace of hatchlings dull yellow, a broad black border (sometimes mottled with yellow) surrounds each vertebral and costal shield; within this border the ground color is light brown; typically each areola has a reddish brown border of moderate width within which there is a single central redbrown spot that usually coalesces posteriorly with the surrounding areolar border; upper and lateral edges of marginals and supracaudal bordered with black within which the areolae are edged with reddish brown. Plastral shields yellow, more or less mottled and edged with blackish brown. Head and limbs yellowish brown, uniform [LOVERIDGE].

Distribution:
In Ethiopia in the Rift Valley, south to Omo Valley and to the east to Ogaden and Somalia. North to Awash basin, Djibouti.

Note:
They inhabits hot semiarid areas of scrubland and wooded savannah where eating variety of plants, often dry grass and succulents. He does not live at such a height as Kinixis belliana.
The females lay up to 60 eggs into deep holes. Juveniles are small and vulnerable, therefore they are hiding in the undergrowth. In Ethiopia occur ssp. Stigmochelys pardalis babcocki.

Our records:
Awash (Trailin); Awash (Trailin, Novak, Mazuch); Mieso (Trailin); Babile (Trailin); Qebri Beyah (Trailin); Turmi (Trailin); Yabello (Trailin); Bidre (Trailin, Novák); Addis Abeba, Ayat - introduced? (Trailin).

Description original:
Bell, T. Descriptions of three new species of land tortoises. Zoological Journal. London. 3: 419-421.

Common english name: Leopard Tortoise

Stigmochelys pardalis - habitat, Awash NP, Shewa, Ethiopia



Pelomedusa somalica PETZOLD et al.2014


Short description:
A Small to medium-sized, light-coloured helmeted terrapins with a known maximum straight carapacial length of 15.7 cm. Pectoral scutes triangular to rectangular with wide or, rarely, narrow midseam contact. One large undivided temporal scale on each side of head. Two small barbels under chin. In adults, plastron completely yellow; soft parts ventrally lighter than dorsally [according to PETZOLD et al.].

Distribution:
In Ethiopia central and east. From Rift Valley (Koka), to Awash basin (Besseka lake), eastwards to Somaliland and Somalia, probably Djibouti and ethiopian Ogaden.

Behavior:
Inhabits continuous or periodic ponds, lakes, waterholes, ditches and slow flowing rivers. They are often seen on the banks. Activates in daytime but also at night. They feed aquatic animals (insects, fishes, frogs...etc). To a lesser extent also eats plants. Females lay 30 to 40 eggs in the size of 35 x 25 mm.

Our records:
Besseka lake (Trailin, Novak, Mazuch);

Description original:
PETZOLD, ALICE; MARIO VARGAS-RAMÍREZ, CHRISTIAN KEHLMAIER, MELITA VAMBERGER, WILLIAM R. BRANCH, LOUIS DU PREEZ, MARGARETHA D. HOFMEYR, LEON MEYER, ALFRED SCHLEICHER, PAVEL ŠIROKÝ & UWE FRITZ 2014.
A revision of African helmeted terrapins (Testudines: Pelomedusidae: Pelomedusa), with descriptions of six new species. Zootaxa 3795 (5): 523–548

Pelomedusa somalica - habitat, Besseka Lake, Shewa, Ethiopia



Pelomedusa gehafie (RÜPPELL, 1835)


Short description:
Medium-sized, light-coloured helmeted terrapins with a known maximum straight carapacial length of 17.8 cm. Pectoral scutes triangular and in adults widely separated from plastral midseam (in hatchlings the tips of the triangular pectorals may meet at the plastral midseam). One large undivided temporal scale on each side of head. Two small barbels under chin. Carapace unpatterned light coloured. Plastron in adults completely yellow [according to PETZOLD et al.].

Distribution:
North part of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Note:
Inhabits continuous or periodic ponds, lakes, waterholes, ditches and slow flowing rivers. They are often seen on the banks. Activates in daytime but also at night. They feed aquatic animals (insects, fishes, frogs...etc). To a lesser extent also eats plants. Females lay 30 to 40 eggs in the size of 35 x 25 mm.

Description:
Rüppell, E. 1835. Neue Wirbelthiere zu der Fauna von Abyssinien gehörig, entdeckt und beschrieben. Amphibien. S. Schmerber, Frankfurt a. M.

Pelomedusa gehafie - Habitat, Eritrea



Pelomedusa neumanni PETZOLD et al.2014


Short description:
Medium-sized helmeted terrapins with a known maximum straight carapacial length of 19.4 cm. Pectoral scutes rectangular with wide midseam contact. One large undivided temporal head scale. Two small barbels under chin. Colouration variable; specimens with light horn-coloured carapace and completely yellow plastron and individuals with brownish plastron known to occur; soft parts ventrally lighter than dorsally [according to PETZOLD et al.].

Distribution:
In Ethiopia south, Omo basin, also Kenya and Tanzania.

Note:
Inhabits continuous or periodic ponds, lakes, waterholes, ditches and slow flowing rivers. They are often seen on the banks. Activates in daytime but also at night. They feed aquatic animals (insects, fishes, frogs...etc). To a lesser extent also eats plants. Females lay 30 to 40 eggs in the size of 35 x 25 mm.

Description original:
PETZOLD, ALICE; MARIO VARGAS-RAMÍREZ, CHRISTIAN KEHLMAIER, MELITA VAMBERGER, WILLIAM R. BRANCH, LOUIS DU PREEZ, MARGARETHA D. HOFMEYR, LEON MEYER, ALFRED SCHLEICHER, PAVEL ŠIROKÝ & UWE FRITZ 2014.
A revision of African helmeted terrapins (Testudines: Pelomedusidae: Pelomedusa), with descriptions of six new species. Zootaxa 3795 (5): 523–548

Pelomedusa neumanni - habitat, Turmi, Ethiopia



Pelomedusa sp. - Gambella specimen


Distribution:
In Ethiopia south-west part with South Sudan border (Gambella)

Note:
Inhabits continuous or periodic ponds, lakes, waterholes, ditches and slow flowing rivers. They are often seen on the banks. Activates in daytime but also at night. They feed aquatic animals (insects, fishes, frogs...etc). To a lesser extent also eats plants. Females lay 30 to 40 eggs in the size of 35 x 25 mm.

A revision of African helmeted terrapins (Testudines: Pelomedusidae: Pelomedusa), with descriptions of six new species. Zootaxa 3795 (5): 523–548




Pelusios adansonii SCHWEIGGER 1812

Short description:
A medium-sized turtle, carapax lenght reach up to 240 mm, on average 190 mm; carapace of males is comparatively narrowed and the shell flatter; the carapace color is dark brown or blackish with numerous radiating dots or dashes; plastron bright yellow; body grayish or yellowish; upper and lateral part of head dark brown with a narrow pattern of dark yellow vermiculation that are absent from the rhamphotecae.

Distribution:
In Ethiopia west parts. River basins of Baro (Gambella, Itang), and maybe also river Akobo. In Africa Senegal, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic and South and North Sudan.

Note:
This species inhabit very dry regions, and is found only in major rivers and lakes, where the water is quiet, shallow and warm. During the dry season, it can aestivate in the mud, or drier waterbodies. The species is carnivorous, feeding invertebrates, fishes, frogs, mollusks or freshwater crabs. Females lays up to 25 eggs, usually much less, 5 - 10.

Description:
Schweigger, A.F.: Prodromus Monographia Cheloniorum auctore Schweigger. Königsberg. Arch. Naturwiss. Mathem., 1: 271-368, 406-458.


Common english name: Adanson’s Turtle




Pelusios sinuatus SMITH 1838

Pelusios sinuatus - Kenya
Pelusios sinuatus - Kenya

Short description:
Dark, large water turtle with arched oval shell and a long neck. The claws on the feet long and sharp; carapace at the rear strongly serrated. The total length up to 55 cm, in average up to 30 cm. The females larger than males. Juveniles 40-50 mm with visible    ventral keel. Dorsum dark brown or black. Juveniles are more vividly colored. Plastron yellow with black edging.

Distribution:
In Ethiopia south, wabe Shebelle and Juba river basin, southwest Omo basin. Probably Rift Valley lakes.
In Africa Botswana, Burundi, Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Note:
This is the typical deep water terrapin commonly found in the rivers and lakes of eastern Africa. It can often be seen the terrapin basking on suitable logs, rocks or mudbanks. During the rainy season these terrapins migrate overland and colonize isolated pans and waterholes. The clutch size varies from 7 to 30 eggs.
Carnivorous species. They feed a variety of aquatic animals, including carrion. The most important predators of the terrapin are adult crocodiles, which they are able to swallow whole.

Description original:
Smith, A.: Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa, consisting chiefly of Figures and Descriptions of the Objects of Natural History collected during an Expedition into the Interior of South Africa, in the years 1834, 1835, and 1836 . . . Vol. 3, Reptilia. 28 p., 78 pls. Smith, Elder, & Co., London [This series was published in 28 parts; see Waterhouse 1880, Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1880:489-491, and Jentink 1893, Notes Leyden Mus. 15:182, for publication dates and contents.]


Common english name: East African Serrated Turtle




Pelusios broadleyi BOUR, 1986

Short description:
Small water turtle, which reaches to the size of 17 cm.. The carapace with one vertebral keel, dorsum yellow-brown, with many dark spots. The body light brown, yellowish, ventral side of head dark brown and yellow dotted. Plastron dark with a yellow center.

Distribution:
Kenya endemic. Lake Turkana in Kenya. From Ethiopia it is not known, but its occurrence might be possible in the delta of the Omo River, which flowing into Lake Turkana.

Note:
The biology of P.broadley is poorly known. This species inhabit the shores of Lake Turkana, probably also its tributaries.

Description original:
Bour,R. Note sur Pelusios adansonii (Schweigger, 1812) et sur une nouvelle espece affine du Kenya (Chelonii, Pelomedusidae). Studia Geologica Salmanticensia, Studia Palaeocheloniologica 2(2): 23-54


Common english name: Turkana Mud Turtle



Trionychoidea

Trionychoidea are flat a disc shaped turtles, which have reduced the skeleton of the carapace and plastron. The carapace and plastron is not covered by epidermal ceratine scutes, however, they are covered with a thick skin. Plastron lacks mesoplastron. The flattened shell lacks peripheral bones (except genus Lissemys). Neck hiding vertically.

Cyclanorbinae: They have joined hyoplastron and hypoplastron. Plastron has a clearly visible crescent-shaped fold under the hind limbs.

Trionychinae: They have separated hyoplastron and hypoplastron by bones on each side. Plastron lacks the fold.


Trionyx triunguis FORSKÅL 1775

Short description:
Large aquatic turtle with a flat leathery carapace. The largest documented individual measured 101 cm. The carapace rounded on the edges strongly wrinkled. Dorsum brown, olive-green sometimes to black, with different intensity and the number of small yellow spots. The plastron bright, creamy, sometimes with with a few less visible spots. Head in relation to body size small, with extended rostrum into a tubular snout. The body color dark, with a more pronounced yellow dotting. Underside of limbs bright, the feet flat, perfectly adapted for swimming, the males have longer and thickened tails.

Distribution:
In Ethiopia, has lived principally in rivers belong to the basin of the Nile (Abay, Baro, Akobo, Tekeze). Most of the African continent except the waterways of southern and NW Africa. White (below Murchison Falls) and Blue Nile drainages, Lakes Rudolf and Albert, the tributaries of the Congo River, W/C/N Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), and most drainages in West Africa incl. Gabon, Mauritania. Along the coasts of Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, Greece (Kos), Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, S Somalia, Kenya, Angola, southwest to N Namibia and west to Senegal; Mali, Central African Republic, Gambia, Cameroon.

Note:
A freshwater turtle, inhabiting rivers, lakes, and estuaries; usually with some exposed sandy or muddy shores. Highly aquatic, but leaves the water for basking and nesting. Can tolerate sea water and frequently enters the sea, allowing the species to colonize new river systems. Diurnal, omnivorous.
Females lay on the sandy shores into holes spherical eggs, which may be up to 100 pieces (usually about 30) and which measured 35 mm in diameter. The incubation period approximately 60 days.


Description original:
Forskål,P.: Descriptiones animalium, avium, amphibiorum, piscium, insectorum, vermium; quae in itinere Orientali observavit Petrus Forskål. Mölleri, Hauniae, XXXIV + 164 pp.


Common english name: Nile Soft-shelled Turtle




Cyclanorbis elegans GRAY 1869


Short description:
A Large flat soft-shell turtle, in olive to black color, with bright spots at the edge of the carapace. The plastron of juveniles is covered longitudinally with small tubercles and central keel, with the age these characters disappears. The plastron is yellow with dark spots. The males have thicker tail than females. Plastron has a clearly visible crescent-shaped fold under the hind limbs.

Distribution:
Southwest Ethiopia, Gambella. Tributaries of White Nile (Baro river, Akobo river, Alwero river). Also Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Benin, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana.

Note:
It inhabits slowly flows rivers and large streams. Its mostly carnivorous.

Description original:
Gray, J.E.: Notes on the families and genera of tortoises (Testudinata), and on the characters afforded by the study of their skulls. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 1869: 165-225.


Common english name: Nubian Soft-shelled Turtle





Chelonia mydas (LINNAEUS, 1758)

Chelonia mydas japonica (THUNBERG 1787)

Distribution:
Eritrea, Red Sea. Indian and Western Pacific Ocean.

Thunberg, C. P. 1787. Beskrifning pé Trenne Skölpaddor [Description of two new turtles] Kongl. Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar, För M_naderne 1787 (Julius, Augustus, September): 178-180


Caretta caretta (LINNAEUS, 1758)



Description original:
Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii, Holmiæ. 10th Edition: 824 pp.


Dermochelys coriacea (VANDELLI, 1761)       !

Description original:
Vandelli,D. 1761. Epistola de holothurio, et testudine coriacea ad celeberrimum Carolum Linnaeum equitem naturae curiosum Dioscoridem II. Conzatti, Padua.

Eretmochelys imbricata (LINNAEUS, 1766)


Original description:
Linné, C. von [= Linnaeus, C.] 1766. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio duodecima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm, Holmiae. 1-532 pp.




















































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