Pancake tortoises.

Pancake Tortoise

The pancake tortoise is so named because it is flat as a pancake — at least compared to other tortoises.

Pancake tortoise.

Pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) at the 2015 Canadian Pet Expo.

This beautiful tortoise from Africa is a small species, less than 18 centimeters, and its body and behavior is atypical in many ways. The shell of the pancake tortoise is a lot lighter and less sturdy than the shell of most tortoises which allows the pancake tortoise to move a lot faster than its relatives and even climb up things that one would not consider a tortoise would climb. The flat shape of the shell also allows the pancake tortoise to fit into gaps between rocks and hide there.

Pancake tortoises.

Pancake tortoises seem to make good and interesting pets and their relatively smaller size can be appealing to would be pet owners. The diet of the pancake tortoise consist mainly of grasses and other vegetable matter — superficially similar to Testudo tortoises.

There is the problem however that the reproduction of the pancake tortoise is slow especially because the female can only produce one egg at a time because of size issues which is not surprising for a flat tortoise.

Many pancake tortoises in the pet trade are still wild caught because captive bred ones are still somewhat expensive. But because they don’t reproduce in the wild any faster the population numbers of the pancake tortoise has declined as a result of over harvesting for the pet trade.

The responsible thing to do if you want one is to just buy a captive bred pancake tortoise even if it is more expensive. If you get a pair perhaps you can breed them and make your money back.

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Last updated: April 8, 2015

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