Leopard Tortoise

Leopard Tortoise Stigmochelys pardalis

Type of Animal:

Savanna, thorny areas, grasslands, thorn-scrub, mesic brushland, dry arid plains, mountainous terrain (as high as 9,500 ft), desert, shrub habitat w/ low-lying vegetation, forests (xeric & mesic)

Sub-Saharan Africa

High domed carapace (upper shell), leopard-like markings, yellow to cream skin/background color, markings more distinct on juveniles, 2nd largest tortoise in Africa, trunk-like back legs, paddle-shaped front legs, males have concave plastron (lower shell) & longer tail while females have shorter tail & convex plastron

Cactus pads, leaves, grasses, succulents, herbs, flowers, fruit, weeds, shrubs, small trees, roots, vines, seeds, hay, vegetables, legumes, greens, thistles, melons, berries, clover, petals, blossoms

Status in Wild:

Breeding from zoos, wildlife centers, & breeders

Herds consist of 1-3 males w/ 2-6 females. Almost always more females than males in herd.

Additional Info:

Young: Hatchling
Group: Herd
Male: 15-30 lbs
Female: 30-45 lbs
Young: 0.8 oz

5-5.5 months 

Life Span:
50-100 years

1.3 ft

Body Length:
Male: 1.3 ft
Female: 1.5-2 ft

Tail Length:
Male: Long/thick
Female: Short/thin

Main predators of adults are felids, canids, & hyenas. Young preyed on by crows, snakes, mongooses, hornbills, monitor lizards, & small felids.
Sexually mature at 6 years old.
Females lay clutches of 5-30 eggs.
During courtship, males ram females into submission & grunt.
During breeding season, males fight by ramming & butting.
Sex of hatchlings determined by egg temp-temps of 78.8-87.8 F produce males & temps of 87.8-93.2 produce males.
Plays important role in seed dispersal.
Active early in the morning & in evening (crepuscular).
Most widely distributed tortoise in Africa.

Fun Fact(s):
Surprisingly decent swimmers due to sizeable lung space in domed shell allowing buoyancy. In fact, can stay underwater for up to 10 minutes.
Sometimes releases stored water/urine when picked up from ground as defense strategy. Sometimes, results in death due to dehydration.
One of 5 animals making up Africa’s Little 5-others being rhino beetle, red-billed buffalo weaver, antlion, & elephant shrew.
Often called “leos” or “leopard torts” in herpetoculture/pet trade.
Will hiss when scared but sound doesn’t always come from mouth. It will pull head/limbs into shell forcing air from lungs, often causing hissing sound.
Will store water in “bursa sac” in drier periods, used for hydration as well as moistening ground. It helps make it easier to dig nest to lay eggs.

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