Leopard Tortoise

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Species group:

Other common names: African Leopard Tortoise

Scientific name: Geochelone pardalis

The basics:
The Leopard Tortoise is native to much of central and southern Africa, except in areas of high humidity. In its natural habitat it consists on a diet of grasses, cactus and weeds. Leopard Tortoises grow quite large, with typical adults reaching 16-18 inches (40-50 cm) and 40 pounds in weight (18 kg). It is a very attractive species, and has strongly contrasting black and yellow markings on its carapace which resemble a leopard pattern.

Appearance / health:
The large and formidable appearing Leopard Tortoises shell is highly domed and a long oval shape. Their carapace is a light yellow with darker markings along the seams.

Behavior / temperament:
The Leopard Tortoise is highly adaptable and when well cared for does not stress easily.

As one of the largest tortoises, the Leopard Tortoise needs an equally large enclosure. A minimum of 60 square feet of ground space for 2 tortoises is an ideal start. They thrive best outdoors and often are given the run of the yard. The ground under them should be well covered with grasses and sand and must be kept dry. They are not burrowing tortoises, which makes building their habitat a bit easier. They will need sturdy walls or fences as they will just walk through anything less. Furnishings should include natural longs and rocks. They will appreciate shrubs and other places to hide. Heated basking areas will be used often. They should have a shallow pond for soaking and drinking. In climates that become cold and damp an indoor enclosure will also be needed.

LIFESPAN: 50-100 years

TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY: Average temperatures should be kept at 68°-86° F; day and night, year round. Anytime temperatures fall below 60° F then a heated shed or other enclosure is needed. They adapt well to humidity up to 65% but above 70% and they tend to get runny noses.

HIBERNATION / ESTIVATION: The Leopard Tortoise does not hibernate so they will need adequate accommodations year round.

HEALTH CONCERNS: Common health problems are usually related to poor diet or an improper living environment. Diets high in protein such as dog or cat foot will cause pyramiding and/or bladder stones. Pyramiding is the overgrowth of carapace scutes. In environments where there is high humidity they can suffer from shell or skin conditions, respiratory infections, and urinary tract infections. Drinking excessive amounts of water is one symptom of a urinary tract infection.

The natural diet of a Leopard Tortoise is completely herbivorous. Their captive diet should also be highly plant based and as close to their natural diet as possible. It’s best to plant and feed natural foods which should include naturally growing grasses. Other good choices are hibiscus, clover, dandelion, mulberry, violets, and endive. They can be fed once or twice a week supplemental foods in addition to their naturally growing foods. Supplemental foods can include dark greens, soaked rabbit pellets, and a reptile vitamin. Their diet should be made of ‘dry’ foods, foods too high in water content such as fruit will cause digestive problems. These tortoises are an unusually fast growing species and have a higher need of vitamin D3 and calcium. In the wild they will chew on bones and eat feces to obtain these much needed nutrients.

Breeding season begins in late winter to early spring with the eggs hatching in late fall to early winter. Since the Leopard Tortoise does not hibernate breeding becomes a year round process if temperatures are kept above 77 ° F. Males will find the largest female to be the most attractive of the group. During breeding males become very territorial and may need to be separated. For the female a nest site must be provided or she may not lay her eggs and become egg bound; a serious, often deadly health condition. Up to 21 eggs may be laid in a nest, hatching 3 -5 months later.


attractive markings, attractive tortoise species, dry temps


infections, long term commitment, damp


grazers, high fiber diet, large, higher fiber pellets, UVBheat lamp

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