Leopard Tortoise

Geochelone pardalis

Description

To 68 cm. Domed carapace with almost vertical sides. Yellow, tan, brown, reddish-brown, or olive areolae. Carapace nicely marked with a characteristic leopard pattern, more pronounced in young. Plastron has a deep anal notch. The head is moderate in size with a nonprotruding snout and a hooked, often tricuspid upper jaw. Two or more large conical tubercles occur on the hindside of each thigh.

Habitat

Restricted to Africa. Ranges from southern Sudan and Ethiopia through eastern Africa to Natal and South Africa, westward to Southern Angola and South-West Africa. Prefer savannas, plains, and kopjes with dry woodland, thorn scrub, and grasslands. They shun heavily forested areas.

Behavior

Both sexes may be aggressive during courtship.

Reproduction

During courtship, the male will butt the female to immobilize her. After mounting, he extends his neck and utters a gruntlike bellow. Nesting is from May to October. Nest is a flask-shaped hole 100-300 mm deep. 5 to 7 clutches of 5 to 30 eggs may be laid in a season. Typical internesting period is 3 weeks. Eggs are spherical, 30-40 mm, brittle. Incubation may take over a year. Hatchlings are brightly patterned, with round, flattened carapaces (45 - 50 mm).

Food

Feed on a variety of wild plants, fungi, grasses, and fallen fruits. Prefers crussulas, spekboom, thistles, and the introduced prickly pear. Likes succulents (for the water?).

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