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Gilbert White’s Tortoise

This large and handsome tortoise was first described by Bennett in 1836 and received the name Testudo Whitei after the naturalist and explorer Gilbert White.

In addition to being dubbed Testudo Whitei, it is now commonly known as Furculachelys Whitei due to its internal bone structure not matching the Testudo genus, as is the case with Furculachelys Nabeulensis. However the similarity between the two reflects only on their carapace and bone structure but stops abruptly there, as this central Algerian animal dwarfs its Tunisian cousin with its comparatively gargantuan overall dimensions. These animals can commonly surpass 30cm and weigh over 6kg.

As with all the spur-thighed group it has no spur at the end of the tail, but possesses a spur on each upper rear thigh. The spurs on this particular animal are extremely large, protrusive and are also cream or white in colouration, making them a key recognising feature of this species. The elongated carapace of this animal is also broken up with random radiating “paint splashes” of grey coloured pigmentation.

The skin colour is also quite light, being a uniform tan colour. The plastron colouration is basically the same as the carapace except the markings are more smudged.

Other distinctive features include thick powerful forelimbs and a tapered triangular shaped head – this being broad at the back of the skull toward the neck and thick and pointed in the snout region. The upper beak of the jaw protrudes a little way down past the lower jaw, giving it a slightly overgrown appearance.

Gender Diversity

Males are smaller in overall size and have a more elongated body shape with a narrower “waist”. Male tails are longer and thicker, normally carried upwards and towards one side, whereas females have short stubby tails which point straight down. Again, the male’s plastron is concave whereas the female’s plastron is flat.

Identification in Brief

  • Very large single white spur on each upper rear thigh
  • No horny tip on the end of the tail
  • Very large adult size
  • Creamy coloured carapace with contrasting grey “paint splashes”
  • Thick powerful legs
  • Unusual head shape



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