ISSN 2398-2985  

Leopard tortoise


Vetstream Ltd

Kirsty Dewhurst

Synonym(s): Stigmochelys pardalis


Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia.
  • Phylum: Chordata.
  • Class: Reptilia.
  • Order: Testudines.
  • Suborder: Cryptodira.
  • Family: Testudinidae.
  • Genus: Stigmochelys.
  • Species: pardalis.

Distribution and habitat

  • Found in eastern and southern Africa, from Sudan to the southern Cape. They can also be found in Namibia, however it is absent from Central Africa in humid forests.
  • It favors semi-arid conditions, including thorny and grassland habitats.
  • When in extreme temperatures, they may find abandoned animal holes to live in.
  • Usually active during the day, but less active during hot weather or during the dry season.
  • They do not hibernate.

Species status

  • Listed under the IUCN as of least concern.
  • A widespread species and is still common throughout most of its range.
  • Some potential threats for the population include human activity, consumption, pet trade and agricultural burning. However, these activities have not yet caused significant population declines.
  • Hatchlings have many predators including monitor lizards, snakes and crows. Adults have few natural predators.

Life span

  • Between 50-100 years in the wild.


  • Herbivorous.
  • In the wild, it grazes largely on grasses, succulents and thistles Chelonia nutrition.


  • Sexual maturity is reached between 12-15 years of age.
  • Captive tortoises can reach maturity at 6 years.
  • Males will fight competitors for females by showing aggressive behavior such as ramming Chelonia reproduction.
  • Mating is a vocal process for the males.
  • Nesting occurs between May and October, where the female lays a clutch of 5-30 eggs in a hole she dug herself.
  • In one season, as many as 5-7 clutches can be laid.
  • Incubation period depends on temperature, however is generally between 8-15 months.

As pets

  • Common species in the pet trade.
  • Preferred setup is outdoors, however an indoor enclosure may be required if the climate is too cold.
  • A large enough enclosure as they need lots of room for moving around.
  • A large enough enclosure 3x3 m/10x10 ft is required, as well as a
  • Correct temperatures and UVB lighting is required.
  • Should only be fed fruit occasionally, ensuring it does not make up more than 5% of the tortoise's overall diet.
  • Should be handled infrequently as they like to spend most of their time moving around.

Biological Data

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Reptiles Magazine (2018) Leopard Tortoise. Website: Last accessed 30th January 2018.
  • Ecotraining (2017) 10 Interesting Facts About the Leopard Tortoise. Website: Last accessed 30th January 2018.
  • Baker P J, Kabigumila J, Leuteritz T, Hofmeyr M & Ngwava J M (2015) Stigmochelys pardalis. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Website: Last accessed 16th July 2018.
  • La'Toya L (2015) Care of Leopard Tortoise. Website: Last accessed 15th July 2018.
  • Mosier J (2009) Leopard Tortoise (Geochelone pardalis). In: Unusual Pet care Volume 3. 3rd edn. Zoological Education Network, USA. pp 88-91.
  • Tortoise Protection Group (2008) Leopard Tortoise. Website: Last accessed 15th July 2018.
  • Encyclopedia of Life. Psammobates pardalis - Details Leopard Tortoise. Website: Last accessed 15th July 2018.
  • Highfield C & Martin J. Care and Maintenance of the Leopard Tortoise, Geochelone pardalis. Website: Last accessed 15th July 2018.

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