Asian Forest Tortoise Fact File


The Asian forest tortoise or brown tortoise has a domed shell on its back. This shell features a carapace (upper shell) that is light or dark brown. The underside of the shell (plastron) is pale brown with dark spots. Their skin is dark brown or black with a yellow spot under the chin.

They have a well defined pattern in their shell.

Two subspecies are recognized. These are commonly known as the Asian brown tortoise (Manouria emys emys) and the Burmese brown tortoise (M. e. phayrei). The Burmese brown tortoise is the larger of the two.

On their back legs are very large spurs and this has led to the nickname of six legged tortoise. The face and forelimbs are covered with thick, overlapping scales.

Their body will measure between 50 and 60cm (19.7 to 23.6in) long. They can reach up to 25kg (55lbs). Asian forest tortoises are the largest species of tortoise seen in Asia and the fourth largest tortoise on Earth.

Males tend to have a longer, thicker tail than the females.


Asian herbivores are primarily omnivores which primarily feed on plant matter. Their diet includes grasses, vegetables, leaves, seedlings, herbs, fruit, fungi, carrion, invertebrates and amphibians.

Asian forest tortoise

Scientific Name

Manouria emys

Conservation Status

Critically Endangered


25kg (55lbs)


50-60cm (19.7-23.6in)


150 years



-- AD --


Asia is the native home of the Asian forest tortoise. Here they can be found in Bangladesh; India; Indonesia; Malaysia; Myanmar; Thailand. It is unclear if they still occur in Brunei Darussalam.

The species has gone extinct in Singapore.


They make their home in evergreen forests and lowland areas. Asian forest tortoises show a preference for humid habitats. Most of the time they are found near water.

Asian forest tortoise


These animals undergo an elaborate courtship. Males head-bob to their potential mate and also extend their neck and stare at her as she moves around.

Males will follow females and if she slows down he will attempt to mate with her. During courting both the male and female will create low groans and moans.

Unlike most tortoises they do not dig their nest in the soil. Instead they will sweep debris in to a pile using their front legs. She then burrows in to this debris and deposits the eggs there. She will climb on to the pile and defend it against predators for the next few days. This behavior represents the highest level of parental care by any chelonian.

Females also move the layers of leaves on top of their eggs around to help regulate the temperature in the nest.

The clutch deposited in to this pile may include as many as 50 eggs. Incubation length varies from 63 to 84 days.

Hatchlings and young Asian forest tortoise are colored yellowish brown with dark-brown markings.


Asian forest tortoises are most active at twilight or during the day. They will rest during the day in warm weather.

During periods of warm weather they will soak themselves in water to cool down.

They are very slow even when threatened.

These turtles have a number of ways to communicate and are recognized as having the most elaborate communication behaviors of any tortoise. These include head bobbing and vocalizations.

Asian forest tortoise

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the Asian forest tortoise include tigers, canids and bears as adults. Eggs and juveniles face predation from foxes, large lizards and birds of prey.

Their primary defense against predation is the shell in to which they can retreat.

Humans are another major threat to their survival. This includes through overharvesting for food and collection for the pet trade. Another threat is habitat destruction for logging, clearing for agriculture, forest fires and the building of hydroelectric dams.

They are poached for the illegal wildlife trade.

Quick facts

They have a number of additional names including the Burmese brown tortoise, Burmese mountain tortoise, Asian brown tortoise, brown tortoise, Asian tortoise, black giant tortoise and Asian forest tortoise.

Asian forest tortoises are thought to be the most primitive of the tortoises alive today.

Asian forest tortoise

Photo Credits


By Kevin Ho - Turtle SexUploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Middle One

By Rushenb - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Middle Two

By Wibowo Djatmiko (Wie146) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


By User:Dawson - en: Image:Manouria emys.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.5,


National Geographic Society (U. S.), 2012. National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia. Natl Geographic Soc Childrens Books.

Park, B., 2021. Burmese Brown Tortoise - Ballarat Wildlife Park. [online] Ballarat Wildlife Park. Available at: <> [Accessed 12 February 2021].

Virupannavar, V. 2004. "Manouria emys" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 12, 2021 at

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden®. 2021. Burmese Brown Mountain Tortoise - Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden®. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 February 2021]. 2021. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 February 2021].

Thai National Parks. 2021. Manouria emys, Brown tortoise. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 February 2021].

Choudhury, B.C., Cota, M., McCormack, T., Platt, K., Das, I., Ahmed, M.F., Timmins, R.J., Rahman, S. & Singh, S. 2019. Manouria emys (errata version published in 2019). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T12774A152052098. Downloaded on 12 February 2021. 2021. Toronto Zoo | Animals. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 February 2021].

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