Kleinmann's Tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni), often called Egyptian Tortoise and occasionally Leith's Tortoise includes the Negev Tortoise. It is a critically endangered neck-hiding tortoise. Once more widespread, its numbers are now dwindling. The species is extinct in Egypt, and global extinction is a looming threat unless more actions are taken to protect this species.
Kleinmann's Tortoise is the smallest tortoise in the northern hemisphere. Female tortoises are larger than the males; males are more slender and have a longer tail.
Their shells have high domes, and range in colour from ivory to pale gold to dark brown or dull yellow. This colouring strongly follows Gloger's Rule as it helps to regulate the impact of sunlight. This allowing the paler tortoise to stay in the desert heat for longer. It is also an effective camouflage in the desert. The bottom of the shell is light yellow, often with two dark triangles on each abdominal scute. The tortoise's scutes have dark sidings that fade with age.
The head and limbs are a very pale ivory-yellow to yellowish-brown colour.
The Negev subpopulation has been separated as a distinct species, Negev Tortoise (Testudo werneri). It does not appear to have distinct or strongly reduced haplotype diversity, consistent with the recent extinction of the Egyptian population (see below) and slow DNA sequence evolution rates in Testudo (van der Kuyl 2002). It constitutes a locally-adapted form however and is of distinct appearance. Arguably, it can be considered a subspecies and, as gene flow has ceased, the western and eastern populations must now be managed separately for conservation purposes.(Perälä 2001, Široký & Fritz 2007)
They are least active when it is very cold or very hot. During the colder months, they are out most during midday. During the warm season, they are active in the morning and evening. The rest of the day is spent under brushes or in rodent burrows.
On the IUCN Redlist, Kleinmann's Tortoise is classified as CR A2abcd+3d. It is estimated that less than three Testudo generations ago, there were 55-56,000 adult Kleinmann's tortoises. Today, there are about 7,500 remaining, and decline due to habitat destruction and unsustainable exploitation is appears to be ongoing. While it believed that the former threat is being alleviated, it is feared that illegal pet trade will have reduced to maybe 1000 adult tortoises in the two or three remaining subpopulations. Given that T. kleinmanni is a slowly-maturing long-lived species with few offspring (see K-strategist), it is well possible that this is less than the minimum viable population, eventually dooming the species to extinction in the wild.(Perälä 2003)
Mixing individuals from the subpopulations for reintroduction purposes should be avoided, as the ecological parameters of habitat differ; see Perälä (2001) and above for identification. DNA fingerprinting of individuals to help maintain heterozygosity in captive and reintroduction populations can be performed during routine stool analyses. In this context it is notable that there may be a haplotype uniquely found in the Negev Tortoise (Široký & Fritz 2007).
Captive breeding requires more care than in other Testudo as the species is more delicate and the clutch is very small, but is not highly difficult for experienced Testudo breeders. T. kleinmanni is not generally available for hobbyists and even if legal to keep should be avoided without valid documentation. Smuggling continues to be a problem, but confiscated individuals are used to establish a captive safeguard population.
On May 21, 2007, Rome's main zoo, Bioparco, reported that it has successfully bred the species whose parents were rescued from a smuggler's suitcase in 2005.