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Pancake Tortoise

Malacochersus tornieri
Family: Testudinidae
Adult Size: 1½ lbs.

Southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.

Habitat: Rocky areas and isolated rock outcrops (kopjes).
Captive Lifespan: More than 20 Years
Care Level: Intermediate


This tortoise is not commonly available as wild caught imports because of its restricted range and the fact that it is protected in most of its natural range. Wild caught pancake tortoises have be notoriously difficult to acclimate to captivity. Despite this it is now more commonly being bred in captivity as time goes on although it is not excessively common because of the fact they only lay only one egg at a time and even then usually only once a year.

The pancake tortoise is an odd and unique tortoise in that its carapace is flat and relatively soft. This allows it to squeeze into the rock crevices it inhabits. In captivity it is beneficial to provide flat rocks built up to allow the tortoise to fit between them. It has been found that this is almost a necessity for their survival.

The pancake tortoise prefers lower temperatures in the range of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They are not known to be active baskers preferring to avoid the sun by hiding in the rocks.

They will feed on dark leafy greens, fibrous fruits such as apples and pears in addition to berries. The pancake tortoise will also feed on insects and carrion. A dish of clean fresh water should be provided at all times.