FOCUS ON THE LEOPARD TORTOISE

Although these large tortoises are often called Mountain Tortoises (probably as a direct translation of the Afrikaans name, Bergskilpad), it is also called a Leopard Tortoise – which is not surprising when you note its spotted shell. The pardalis part of its scientific name, Stigmochelys pardalis, refers specifically to its spotted shell.

Just for fun, here is a photograph of a leopard.

Leopard tortoises are the largest species of tortoise that occur in southern Africa. They are also the only tortoise that can raise its head or swim as they do not have a nucal shield above the neck. Their heads are moderately large with a hooked upper jaw. As they are toothless, they use their horny beak to sheer through the grass and other plants that they eat.

The high-domed shell provides protection from the heat of the sun. Note its tongue sticking out.

Their rear legs are well developed while the almost paddle-shaped and pigeon-toed front legs with a row of small nails is used to move very fast and easily manoeuvre over rocky terrain – which may also have given rise to its alternate name of Mountain Tortoise.

During the breeding season, males are combative, including actions such as ramming their opposition, butting and occasionally even overturning one another. This victorious one has found his female.

21 thoughts on “FOCUS ON THE LEOPARD TORTOISE

    • Thank you, Derrick. I enjoy sharing some of what we regard as common place – although I never tire of seeing these tortoises in the veld and stop to look at every one of them!

      Liked by 1 person

    • They are large: they have been measured up to 70cm long and weighing up to 40kg. These would be very mature specimens – they can live up to a century if all goes well with them.

      Like

  1. I love them. In SoCal, desert tortoises used to be creatures I would see rarely when I was young. I have seen one in the last 20 years. It was run over by a car. They are endangered here.

    Like

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