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Identification of tortoises
  1. Mike Jessop

    Mike Jessop is a partner in a fivevet companion animal practice in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales. He has had a long‐standing interest in all exotic species, but prefers to avoid feathers. His prime interest is tortoise medicine and surgery. He has a steady caseload of tortoises and is involved in many veterinary, conservation and owner groups. He also keeps a small herd of Tunisian, leopard and sulcata tortoises. He is a past‐president of the BSAVA and is the current BSAVA representative at the Union of European Veterinary Practitioners.


CHELONIA are very ancient in evolutionary terms. The total number of species worldwide remains variable as species differentiation is difficult and studies in the wild are limited. The small range of some species has allowed complex, local diversification that will take a lot of research to unravel. Members of the Chelonia Order (ie, shelled reptiles) include seven species of marine turtle, 199 species of freshwater terrapin and 50 species of land tortoise. This article provides some key points to help identify the tortoise species seen more commonly in the UK pet market.

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