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For tortoise, terrapin and turtle care and conservation

THE PANCAKE TORTOISE (Malacochersus tornieri)

HABITAT: In areas of small hills with rocky outcrops and arid thornbush at altitudes from 100 to 600 feet.

RANGE: Kenya and Tanzania

FEATURES: This extraordinary tortoise is flat and its leathery shell is soft. When molested it hides itself in a rocky crevice and by inflating its soft leathery underbelly is able to wedge itself in. The adults measure about six inches with females slightly larger. The animals come in a variety of patterns, pale brown or with black borders on the scutes. Juveniles may be nicely coloured. Jaw edges are markedly serrated. The animal has slender, spindly legs helping it to right itself when falling down or climbing the walls of rocky crevices.The mating season is January/February with the males snapping at the females' limbs before mounting . One single elongated egg is laid, usually during July/August . Incubation time, under low humidity, is long, on average 185 days. The young are expert climbers from birth.

FEEDING: Native: on dry grasses and available vegetation : Captive: on a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, as well as plants growing in the wild like clover, dandelion and vetches


This tortoise does not hibernate; in its natural habitat it spends a great deal of time hiding quietly in rocky crevices, often with two or more together, as they appear to be gregarious. In a vivarium a high day temperature should be maintained and although a low humidity is required, it is wise to provide a plastic or stone hiding place and occasionally spray the inside of the "cave" to imitate conditions in its natural habitat. Although gregarious by nature males may fight and injure each other badly when only one female is available. In small vivaria the sexes are better separated. Outdoor pens planted up with the recommended vegetation should be provided during summer days, so that a more natural lifestyle can be imitated. By night the animals should be returned to the indoor facilities.