Pancake Tortoise


ORDER: Testudines

FAMILY: Testudinidae

GENUS: Malacochersus

SPECIES: tornieri

DESCRIPTION:
The carapace of an adult measures about six inches, with females slightly larger than males. The shell is flat, soft, and barely ossified. Scutes are pale brown with wide dark brown borders penetrated by asymmetrical radiating light streaks. Limbs are slender and extremely flexible. Good vision and smell.

GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Found at altitudes of 1000 to 6000 feet in isolated locations in Kenya and Tanzania. Areas of thorn bush or savanna with small hills with rocky outcrops (kopjes) are the preferred habitat.

DIET:
Herbivorous. Eats succulents, thorn bush, grass, and other plants in the wild. In captivity will accept a variety of fruits and vegetables.

LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Diurnal. Feeds in the morning and evening. Mating takes place in January and February with a single egg laid in July or August. The hatchling has a hard shell which quickly becomes flat and soft.

SPECIAL ADAPTATIONS:
Agile climber. When disturbed it runs and hides in crevices in the rock. Here it anchors itself with its legs, inflates its lungs, and wedges the flexible shell against the walls of its hiding place so tightly that it is very difficult for a predator to pull it out.

INTERPRETIVE INFORMATION:
It can climb vertical crevices in the rocks using the technique mountaineers call "chimney climbing"; the carapace is pressed against one wall and the feet against the other and the tortoise can wriggle upwards.

OUR ANIMALS:
The pancake tortoises can be found in the African Savanna.

STATUS IN WILD:
Species not presently threatened, but may become so unless trade is regulated. Listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Grzimek, Bernhard. 1975. Grzimek
  2. Pritchard, Peter. The Encyclopedia of Turtles.1979. TFH Publications, Neptune, NJ, pp. 463-466.
  3. Zoological Society of Philadelphia Home Page. 1996. Internet.