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Pancake Tortoise

Malacochersus tornieri


Testudinidae, land tortoise family

Conservation Status:

Vulnerable, IUCN


Kenya and Tanzania


Thorn scrub and savannas with rocky outcrops (kopjes)


The shell of the pancake tortoise is very flat, which makes it easier for the tortoise to right itself when overturned. They overturn frequently due to their habit of climbing on and over rocks.

It is a small, flat tortoise 6 to 7 inches in length with a flexible shell. The shell has openings between the bony plates, making it much lighter than and not as rigid as in other tortoises. The shell has a flexible bridge (connecting the plastron and carapace) to allow it to be flattened slightly when the tortoise seeks shelter in rock crevices.

They are fast and agile climbers. Since they are rarely found far from their rocky home it can make a dash for the nearest rock if they are disturbed. Individuals are brown, with radiating yellow markings on the shell. They may live as long as 25 years in captivity

These tortoises are surprisingly social, and get along well in a group as long as there is enough food for all. As many as ten tortoises have been found sharing the same crevice.

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