Bowsprit tortoise (Chersina angulata)

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Baby Bowsprit tortoise (Chersina angulata at Cape Town

A baby Chersina angulata (Bowsprit tortoise), photo taken at the Cape Point Nature Reserve by Abu Shawka

The Bowsprit tortoise (Chersina angulata, aka Angulate tortoise or Rooipens) is the only identified member of the genus Chersina of the family Testudinidae. These reptiles are called bowsprit tortoises because of the prominent bowsprits (protrusions) found on their lower carapace under their chins.

Their natural habitat is the dry, coastal scrub vegetation region of southwestern South Africa and Dassen Island in the Atlantic Ocean (about 55 km off Cape Town). Their natural habitat extends across the Cape Floristic Region covering the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and up to southern Namibia.

The Bowsprit tortoises feed on a wide range of indigenous plants of South Africa. They are popular as a garden pet in South Africa. If they are kept in gardens (including parks, zoos), they have to be fed on a similar range of plants that they eat in their South African natural habitats, and they need the type of dry Mediterranean type of climate as in South Africa. If they are not provided with similar feeding conditions and climate, they cannot survive.

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