Rare Two-Headed Tortoise Found in South Africa

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Margaretha Hofmeyr, head of the Chelonian Biodiversity and Conservation Program at the University of the Western Cape, concurred that from the photo the juvenile two-headed animal appears to be an angulate tortoise. The program she directs is to study the diversity and biology of southern Africa's chelonians (tortoises and turtles).

The angulate tortoise seldom grows bigger than 22 centimeters (eight or nine inches), and has a lengthened straw-colored shell with somewhat raised shields that are black in the middle and on the sides. The tortoise evidently doesn't like to be picked up, and will often empty its bladder on a human handler in what may be an attempt to defend itself.

South Africa, which covers less than one percent of the Earth's total land surface, is widely renowned for its rich diversity of fauna and flora (see links below). Of the 43 species of tortoises worldwide, 13 can be found in South Africa, ten of them in the Western Cape.

The endangered geometric tortoise (click on the Turtle Survival Alliance link below for a list of the world's 25 most threatened turtles), is endemic, or unique to the Western Cape.

Candice Swarts is a journalist working for Die Burger, a daily newspaper in Cape Town, South Africa.

More About Turtles

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Girl Scouts Help Scientist Conserve Turtles in U.S.
Leatherback Turtles Near Extinction, Experts Say
Can Network of Colonies Save Asia's Turtles?
China's Taste for Turtle Fuels Asian Crisis, Groups Say
Turtles Smuggled to China as Food Find Haven in U.S.

National Geographic Magazine Photos:
1930 image of bather "riding" on the back of a turtle in Australia
David Doubilet image of a green turtle

National Geographic Guide to Animals and Nature: Go>>

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