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Considering her new world record in size, god knows whether the poor gal will be able to find a good suitor. But matrimony is probably the last thing on the Geochelone elegans’ mind right now. Weighing 14 Kg the Indian star tortoise recently found in the Lunugamvehera National Park is thought to be the biggest of its kind in the world.

The tortoise is 45 cm in carapace length, the carapace is the hard upper shell, with a shell height of 22 cm and a plastron length, the ventral surface of the shell, of 42cm.
According to a chelonian specialist, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Freshwater and Tortoise Specialist Group member and the Regional Chairman of the IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group for South Asia and Iran, Dr. Anslem de Silva, this specimen is possibly the largest living Geochelone elegans.

De Silva observed that an average adult is around three to four kilograms and this specimen appeared to be healthy with a beautifully coloured carapace and plastron. The assumed age of the specimen is between 40 and 45 years. “They are vegetarians and may feed on animal and fecal matter.”

Geochelone elegans is a threatened species of tortoise found in dry areas and scrub forests of India and Sri Lanka. De Silva pointed out that Geochelone elegans faces many threats, including hatchlings being smuggled out of the country for pet trade.

According to Professor of Herpetology at the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation, University of Malaysia, Sarawak, Indraneil Das Geochelone elegans from eastern Pakistan and western India differ from those of the southeastern India in several subtle, yet consistent features. Das further said that the tortoise from Sri Lanka is brightly coloured, and is much larger than the south-eastern Indian specimen. Additionally, it is known that chelonians living in island habitats have an optimal body size several times larger than their cousins on the mainland.

NJ

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