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Burmese Mountain Tortoises are a forest-floor dweller in the very humid and wet rain forest in southeast Asia. The Burmese Mountain Tortoise is generally considered the fourth largest land tortoise in the world. It is second in size only to Geochelone sulcata (African Spurred Tortoise) among the mainland tortoises, reaching maximum weights of close to 100 lbs. The phayerei subspecies is generally considered to be the larger, with emys emys usually only reaching ½ the size of their relatives. The emys subspecies is also called the Burmese Brown Tortoise while the phayerei is called the Black. Both have also been called the six-footed (legged) tortoise due to the very large and pointed tubercular scales on the rear thighs.
The conservation status of Burmese Mountain Tortoises are Listed in CITES Appendix II. Due to over-export of this species for pet trade, medicinal usage in Asian nations, and religious worship by local monks the Burmese mountain, the Burmese Brown wild population numbers is suffering and it is currently a protected species in its native lands.
In the wild, Burms are found in Assam, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo. They prefer moderate (as opposed to desert) temperatures of 55F to 85F and relatively high humidity between 60% to 100%. Yearlings should not be allowed to reach temps below 65F or so. Despite the high humidity requirement, airflow is a requirement so a closed or stagnant air cage is not recommended. Hiding spots are preferred, as are rains or mists which will usually stimulate a feeding response. Burms are crepuscular, usually active in the morning and evening, but can be found basking or wandering about during a cool day.
This species is one of the only tortoise species that creates a nest and guards it from predators. The Burmese Mountain tortoise utilizes fallen twigs, leaves, and dirt debris on the forest floor to create the nest to lay its eggs in.
M. emys can be considered the stereotypical tortoise in that they are very slow and deliberate in all their movements, the shell is not attractively patterned and they don’t dig long burrows, but they are a very fascinating and personable tortoise, if you have the room for them. They are also considered the most ancient genotype of tortoise still living, so in a Burm, you really do have a prehistoric animal.