Widely distributed in S.E. Africa
Leopard tortoises are named for the speckled pattern on their carapace. The carapace is high and domed, sometimes with pyramid shaped scutes. Juveniles and young adults are attractively marked and the markings on each individual are unique. The skin and background colour are cream to yellow, and the carapace is marked with black blotches, spots or even dashes or stripes. However, in mature adults the markings tend to fade to a slaty, nondescript brown or grey, commonly tinged with the local dust.
These reptiles have been known to undertake extensive migrations in search of food. During hot, dry seasons they dig a hole in the ground and take refuge in it as a way to avoid dehydration and the excessive heat. They remain in this dormant state until the weather improves and the rains return. In captivity, they are not selective in their diet. They will graze on garden grasses, or eat old bones to satisfy their need for calcium.
Sexually mature at 6 to 10 years. The female lays 8 to 15 eggs. The incubation is 240-400 days. The eggs have a tough shell, resistant to damage and rapid dehydration.
The shell consists of interconnected bony plates which include the expanded and fused ribs, with the backbone fixed permanently in place. Both the carapace and plastron are covered on the outside with a layer of large horny plates or scutes. The suture lines between the scutes do not align with those of the bony plates, adding to the strength of the shell.
There are more than 40 different species of tortoise in the world; almost all are actually threatened with destruction of their natural habitat.
|Did YOU Know?|
|The leopard tortoise is the fourth largest species of tortoise in the world.|
|Length:||Up to 21 inches long|
|Weight:||Up to 80 pounds|
|Average Lifespan:||75 years|
|Wild Diet:||Grasses, thistles and plant matter.|
|USFWS Status:||Not Listed|
|CITES Status:||Appendix II|
|Where at the Zoo?||Small Animal Building|