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Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis)

Leopard tortoises are large and attractively marked tortoises found throughout the savannahs of Africa, from Sudan to the southern Cape. Leopards are a grazing species of tortoise that favors semi arid, thorny to grassland habitats, although some leopard tortoises have been found in rainier areas. The one most commonly encountered subspecies is Stigmochelys pardalis babcocki. The other subspecies, the larger and slightly less domed Stigmochelys pardalis pardalis, is found in the Southern parts of the range. As the husbandry requirements are similar for both designations they are often referred to as Stigmochelys pardalis or simply the Leopard tortoise.

Their carapace is high and domed. The skin and background color is cream to yellow, and the carapace is marked with black blotches, spots or even dashes or stripes. Each individual is marked uniquely. Leopards are more defensive than offensive, retracting feet and head into their shell for protection. This often results in a hissing sound, due to the squeezing of air from the lungs as the limbs and head are retracted. Typical adults reach 18-inch and weigh 40-pounds.

Their diet should be at least 70% grasses and hay. Leopard tortoises graze extensively upon mixed grasses weeds, and flowers. It also favors the fruit and pads of the prickly pear (Opuntia). One should stay away from buying too many store bought greens and lettuces because they need a coarse, high fiber diet. Grasses, Clovers, Grape, Mulberry & Fig leaves, Dandelion, Broad Leaf Plantain, Hibiscus, Opuntia, Hollyhock and Chickweed to name a few things. Variety and balance is key.

Males have a longer and thicker tail When compared side by side its easier to determine gender . The male plastron may be slightly concave and display a "V" shaped notch for the tail opening while females typically will have a "U" shaped notch. Leopard tortoises "court" by the male ramming the female. When mating, the male makes grunting sounds. After successfully mating, the female lays a clutch consisting of between five and 18 eggs (larger clutches have been documented). The South African leopard tortoise is significantly more difficult to propagate in captivity than the common leopard tortoise, g. p. babcocki. Rarely will eggs hatch in an incubator. Most successes have occurred when eggs are left in the ground, and when the climate is similar to the natural one for these tortoises.