Ploughshare Tortoise Fact File

Astrochelys yniphora

Credit: Daniel71953, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons








Wild 40-50 years

Captive 100 years



Grass, Weeds, Leaves

Conservation Status


Critically Endangered

Madagascar's Most Endangered Tortoise!

The ploughshare tortoise is considered the most endangered tortoise on the island of Madagascar with a total population made up of just 200 adults. Their numbers have been reduced through habitat loss and collection for the pet trade.

These animals are herbivores which feed on a range of shrubs, forbs and leaf litter.

Females deposit eggs in the soil which hatch in to young. The gender of these is determined by the temperature at which they incubate.

Adult males are significantly larger than the females and will use the ploughshare like scales on the front of their body to try and flip one another over.

Learn more about these rare reptiles by reading on below.


What does the Ploughshare Tortoise look like?

On the back of the ploughshare tortoise is a domed shell. This is primarily colored brown with yellow striping across it. One of the plates on the underside sits up slightly between the front legs roughly in the shape of a ploughshare giving them their name.

Their head and snout may be black or brown with yellow spots around the face.

At the front of their face is a small beak which helps them to crunch through their food.

At the end of their body is a short tail. On their front foot are claws which are longer than those on most other tortoises.

Adult male ploughshare tortoises are much larger than females. An average male will weigh 10.3kg (22.7lbs) compared to the females at 8.8kg (19.4lbs). They measure 37-41.4cm (14.6-16.3in) long.

They are the largest species of tortoise found on Madagascar,


How does the Ploughshare Tortoise survive in its habitat?

The hard shell of these tortoises helps to provide protection against threats in their environment.

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What does the Ploughshare Tortoise eat?

Ploughshare tortoises are herbivores which primarily feed on herbs, forbs and shrubs with no grass being consumed. While they do not consume live bamboo they will eat leaf litter which contains bamboo.

They have been seen to eat the feces of species such as bush pigs.

Learn more about the Ploughshare Tortoise in this video from OKC Zoo on YouTube


Where do you find the Ploughshare Tortoise?

Ploughshare tortoises are found exclusively in Madagascar. This species is restricted to just a small area of the island around the Baly Bay area.


Where can the Ploughshare Tortoise survive?

These animals are found in areas of forest, bamboo-scrub and shrubland.

Ploughshare tortoises will rest under leaf litter rather than digging burrows in to the soil.

Ploughshare Tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora)

Credit: © Hans Hillewaert / CC BY-SA 4.0


How does the Ploughshare Tortoise produce its young?

Breeding takes place from January to May. Males will fight one another to gain breeding rights with the females and use their ploughshare scales to help grab their opponent. They seek to flip over the other tortoise leaving them free to mate with the females.

Each clutch of eggs will include between 1 and 6 eggs. Roughly half of these eggs will hatch successfully.

Incubation lasts between 197 and 281 days. At hatching the young are independent and care for themselves.

Gender of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature at which they are incubated at. At present the temperature ranges for the genders have not been studied.

Sexual maturity is reached by 15 years old.


What does the Ploughshare Tortoise do during its day?

Foraging occurs during the early morning and evening.

Ploughshare Tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora)

Credit: NasserHalaweh, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What stops the Ploughshare Tortoise from surviving and thriving?

Snakes and birds of prey are able to hunt young tortoises while the eggs are eaten by the introduced bush pig.

Ploughshare tortoises have been suffering from significant population declines with a total adult population of just 200 tortoises. As a result it is believed the species could go extinct within just 15 years.

A major factor in their current threatened status is the reduced range of this species primarily owing to exploitation and habitat destruction by fires created to provide better pasture for grazing zebu.

As part of conservation efforts for the species a firebreak is now burnt around their remaining habitat each year to prevent large fires reaching it.

Their decline is being further accelerated through collection for the illegal wildlife trade. In the illegal wildlife trade this species may command prices in to the tens of thousands of dollars. Some are also used for food.

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust have managed a conservation program for the species since 1986 which has seen large numbers bred in captivity.

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Quick facts

This species is also known as Angonoka, angulated tortoise or the Madagascar tortoise.

They were first described for modern science during 1885. It was first described by the French zoologist Léon Vaillant.

Ploughshare Tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora)

Credit: NTF30, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Leuteritz, T. & Pedrono, M. (Madagascar Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Red List Workshop). 2008. Astrochelys yniphoraThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T9016A12950950. Accessed on 13 April 2022.

Fishbeck, L. 2009. "Astrochelys yniphora" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 14, 2022 at

Our Endangered World. 2022. Ploughshare Tortoise. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 April 2022].

EDGE of Existence. 2022. Ploughshare Tortoise - EDGE of Existence. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 April 2022].

Turtle Conservancy. 2022. Turtle Conservancy — Ploughshare Tortoise Program. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 April 2022].

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. 2022. Ploughshare tortoise. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 April 2022].

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