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Leopard Tortoise

Leopard Tortoise at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Click to see more.

Leopard Tortoise

Psammobates pardalis


Testudinidae, the tortoise family.

Conservation Status



Sub-Saharan Africa.


Sub-Saharan Africa.


Leopard tortoises are the fourth largest species of tortoise after the Sulcata tortoise, the Galapagos tortoise and Seychelles Island tortoise.

They are large and attractively marked, with high, domed carapaces. Their leathery skin is cream to yellow in color, and their carapaces are marked with black blotches, spots or even dashes or stripes, each individual’s markings being unique.

They are herbivorous and graze extensively upon mixed grasses. They also eat succulents and thistles. Both eggs and young are easy prey for monitor lizards, storks, crows and small mammals.

They are very long-lived animals with life spans up to 100 years, and they seldom mature until between the ages of 12 and 15 years. “Courting” consists of males ramming females. After mating, females dig a hole and lay between five and 18 eggs which take from 120 to 150 days to hatch.

Like most tortoises, they can retract their head and feet into their shell in defense when threatened. Also, like all tortoises and turtles, their mouth is a “beak”. Their hind legs are very like an elephant’s legs and their front legs are almost paddle-shaped with “pigeon-toes” and a row of small “nails”. They can move very fast on these legs and maneuver easily over rocky terrain. Young tortoises have even been observed climbing.

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