The thin, flat and flexible shell of the African pancake tortoises allows it to swiftly flee danger and hide in rocky cervices and savanna scrub. This quick-footed species can be found in northern and eastern Tanzania, southern Kenya and possibly in Zimbabwe. African pancake tortoise’s yellow and brown coloration blends in with the vegetation and dry grasses that make up its diet.
  • Size

    7 inches (17.8 cm)
  • Diet

    Vegetation and dry grasses
  • Range

    Northern and Eastern Tanzania and Southern Kenya
  • Habitat

    Crevices on rocky hillsides and in scrub and savanna

Physical Characteristics

  • Coloration is brown and yellow.
  • Shell is thin, flat and flexible.
  • Shell bones have many openings, which allow the tortoise to be lighter and more agile to escape predators.
  • Instead of retreating into shell, the tortoise flees danger. Its flexible shell allows it to hide in narrow crevices.
  • Carapace length to 7 inches (17.8 cm).

Animal Fact

The African tortoise’s shell hinges at the joints that make up the bony plates of its shell. This allows these tortoises to climb better than most turtles.

Diet / Feeding

  • Diet typically consists of vegetation and dry grasses.

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in Northern and Eastern Tanzania and Southern Kenya, may also occur in Zimbabwe.
  • Found in crevices on rocky hillsides and in scrub and savanna.

Reproduction & Growth

  • Mating season between January and February.
  • Nesting appears to occur in July and August in natural environment, but in human care, tortoises produce clutches year-round.
  • Female digs hole in soil and typically lays one egg, but a female can lay several eggs over the course of one season.
  • Incubation period of 4-6 months in human care.

Conservation Status

  • “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List

Additional Information

  • Collection of this animal for pet trade is a major threat.
  • Shell hinges at the scute-joints, allowing the animal to climb better than most turtles.


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