Pancake Tortoise

Pancake Tortoise     Malacochersus tornieri

Type of Animal:

Rocky areas(especially those w/ rocky outcroppings known as kopjes) in scrubland, scrub brush, savanna, semi-desert, Acacia-Commiphora bushland, & Brachystegia woodland, found from 100-6,000 ft above sea level

Native to S Kenya & N & E Tanzania, introduced population in Zimbabwe

Named for thin flat flexible shell, brown top shell (carapace) w/ variable pattern of radiating dark lines, bottom shell (plastron) pale yellow w/ dark brown seams & light yellow rays, head, limbs, & tail yellow-brown, males have longer thicker tails, males have darker patterns on carapace, juveniles pale yellow more domed carapace w/ black seams & light yellow rays

Grasses, fruit, greens, flowers, leaves, vegetables, succulents (especially aloe), seeds, weeds, legumes, berries, melons

Status in Wild:
Critically Endangered

Breeding from zoos, wildlife parks, & breeding centers. Ban on importing wild-caught animals.

Found in groups of up to 10 individuals

Additional Info:


Male-12 oz
Female-15-16 oz
Young-1.6 oz

4-6 months 

Life Span:
25 years

Male-1 in
Female-1.5 in

Body Length:
Male-6 in
Female-7 in
Young-1.67 in

Tail Length:
Male-2 in
Female-1 in

Main predators are mongooses, wild dogs, hyenas, feral/domestic dogs, leopards, lions, badgers, servals, & caracals.

Male competition helps w/ breeding success.

Lighter flexible shell doesn’t provide much protection, so often found lodged among rocks & crevices.

Usually only emerge from shelter for an hour at a time, mainly being active in morning, late afternoon, & early evening.

Breeds in January & February in wild, w/ females laying 1-2 eggs per clutch & she releases up to 4 eggs a season.

Highly endangered due to pet trade, habitat destruction, conversion to agricultural land, & overgrazing by livestock.

Due to dry climate, they get most moisture from food they eat.

In their rocky areas, lizards often share homes w/ the tortoises.

Tends to have low reproductive rate-another reason they’re highly endangered.

Fun Fact(s):
When it gets very hot, they will estivate (hibernation during hot weather).

When threatened, it will run to a crevice & use legs to lodge itself as deeply inside as possible to prevent predator from getting it out.

One of fastest tortoises in world, running as fast as a kilometer an hour.

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