Tortoise Identification: 'Fingerprinting'

What is 'Tortoise Fingerprinting'?

Your tortoise has some unique characteristics which mark it out as an individual even amongst its clutch siblings. In particular, the plastron (undershell) has both markings and scute seams, which are sufficiently different for identification to be made on the basis of these alone.

Paul Coleman ran a terrapin sanctuary for several years in Somerset, and he designed this method to successfully keep track of the inmates, despite the terrapins' ability to grow fast and to regularly shed scutes. This expertise is now available to the general tortoise keeper, both as a method of ongoing proof of ownership, and as a simple method of identification when a lost or stolen tortoise is recovered.

What is it for?

If a tortoise is lost or stolen, it can often end up being found far from home, either having been picked up or taken by people living away from the area. If recovered by the Police or an animal rescue charity, proof of ownership will be required if the tortoise is to be re-united with its owner. This the owner can do, using this scheme. In addition, lost tortoises not found or recovered can be published on a Chelonia web site for possible identification by members of the public, if the animal is offered for sale.


What is involved?

At specially advertised tortoise fingerprinting events, provision will be made for the tortoise to be photographed.
(see the website for details)
(£1.50 per tortoise, £1.00 each for further tortoises at the same address)
The owner will be given ta registration card, and the photo will be posted to them in order to complete it. In addition, the database manager will keep a CD copy of this photo, which will be used in a confidential database.

Risk assessment: Is your tortoise secure?
Risk factors:
Hibernating tortoises in a garden shed
Having a tortoise night shelter in the garden
Having a garden overlooked by public access
Hedgehogs in the garden- garden not secure
Is the garden gate always kept securely shut?

Security measures:
Shrubbery for the tortoise to hide in
Escape proof garden fence
Garden fence secure against trespassers
Lockable, secure night shelter
Alarmed exterior sheds and greenhouses

Methods of identification:
Photos of the tortoise and notes on distinguishing marks
Member of the Tortoise Identification Scheme
Micro-dot marking
Micro-chip implant (by a vet)

For further details contact

Website for information on lost tortoises: