Do you go gaga over tortoises? Then the leopard tortoise may be just for you.

Pet stores across the US, including the online space, is full of breeders who advertise their tortoises.

Some of them may be outright drool-worthy for you to be able to resist them. 

Which tortoise would we recommend if someone asked us to?

There are two very closely related species of leopard tortoises that are not just cute but extremely pet worthy. They are

  • Stigmochelys Pardalis that are generally found in regions of South Africa
  • Stigmochelys Babcocki that particularly populates Namibia and some areas of South Africa
  • Zoologists have a reason to believe that there are one more closely related species not yet named but which is a giant variation of the Babcocki variety. It inhabits places in Ethiopia and Somalia.

The leopard tortoise is one of the most common species of tortoises in the world. There is a reason behind why the species has a large number of variations in terms of size, color, and tolerance to climate. This is because the species has a vast geographical variation, and each area lends something to it in terms of its outward appearance.

Of the two named species, the Babcocki is the more common one.

How to distinguish one from the other?

People who are into the trade can look at the scutes of the tortoise and tell you accurately, which is what. The Babcocki variety is darker in color, does not have a very high dome, and grows comparatively more substantial than the Pardalis variety.

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Since both the species overlap, expert breeders distinguish hatchlings and young tortoises of one from the other based on the spots on their scutes. The Babcocki have either one or no dark spot, and the Pardalis has one on each of the scutes.

The leopard tortoise (Babcocki) is more commonly available. Species are caught from the wild and also bred in captivity. Like all herps, tortoises that are bred in captivity are more preferred even though those found from the wild will come around if looked after well.

leopard tortoise walks

How did the Leopard Tortoise enter the country?

Before the year 2000, leopard tortoises were caught and brought inside the country, but suddenly a tick was discovered in a batch of the tortoises that carried the deadly heartwater disease. Imports were banned for a long time, and breeders who captive-bred them were extremely cautious in breeding them.

This also explains clearly why the Pardalis variety is less common than the Babcocki. 

Leopard Tortoise’s Size and appearance:

An adult leopard tortoise (Babcocki) grows from 10 inches to 18 inches in length. The Pardalis variety grows up to 24 inches from snout to vent, and the Ethiopian giants can measure up to a massive 30 inches. In each of the species, based on their geographical origins, males could be bigger than females or vice versa. There cannot be any set of standards. However, males and females can be distinctly identified because the males have concaved plastron and more massive tails.

In the wild, the leopard tortoises can live up to a hundred years! In captivity, they can be over 50 as the most conservative average to date.

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Why the leopard tortoises are great pets

  • Leopard tortoises will not make a bid ever to escape their enclosures
  • They do not climb wall or burrow
  • They are of calm temperament
  • They do not present aggressive behavior such as biting or ramming into the cage walls
  • They can be housed together as many as you like because they are not territorial at all
leopard tortoise

How to set up their cages?  

The best place to set up a home for the tortoises is to set up a 10 by 10 feet pen in the garden area. If you live in a place that gets too cold, then you do not have that option. You must set the cage up indoors. The walls of the enclosure should be a minimum of 18 inches high and made of opaque materials such as

  • Wood
  • Block
  • Or any other such materials that do not allow them to see through the wall.

What must an outdoor cage contain?

  • A hide box to protect from the elements and for a sense of security
  • A lot of grasses
  • Alfalfa for it to eat
  • Bare ground for it to lay eggs
  • A gentle smooth slope for it to lay and bask in the sunlight

You can house your tortoises indoors, but as much as the weather permits, try to let them be outdoors.

Leopard Tortoise Care Guide

1. Indoor tank requirements

When you house them inside, a tank 6 feet by 4 feet by 1.5 feet high is excellent. If that is not available instantly, you could temporarily home them in a plastic inflatable pool or a large tub.

Indoors substrate newspapers work great, for outdoor cages choose short grass, peat, moss, or soil.

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Do not forget to provide a moist hide box and a mainly dry area furnished with a basking light.

Leopard tortoises do not hibernate. When they are indoors, they will require an ambient temperature in the range of 70 and 90 F to remain healthy. If they are exposed to sunlight, you do not need furnishing the cage with a separate UVB light. Use a fluorescent lamp to provide them with the UV B light and a heat source.

When the tortoise is kept in very cold climatic conditions, it can develop respiratory uneasiness, which can lead to pneumonia, nasal discharge, puffy eyes, and loss of appetite. You may want to see a vet urgently.

2. Leopard Tortoise Diet

Since they are grazers, they will feed by eating the grass in their enclosures. You can supplement their diets with all forms of greens and vegetables. You may also include about 6 to 8 percent of fruits in it.

Hatchlings need to be fed daily, and you can dust Vitamin D3 powder on their fruits and vegetables. Adults do not so much benefit from the Vitamin D3 sprinkling on their food.

3. Water

Provide fresh drinking water in a shallow dish. Young tortoises may soak in water. Change the water every day because they drink and mess in the same water.

4. Handling:

Children and adults must not handle them too much. A couple of minutes daily are good. Remember to wash your hands up to one whole minute front and back in warm soapy water after you have handled the tortoises. When they are stressed, they may withdraw into the shell. Do not tap on the shell because that can increase their stress exponentially.

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