- Leopard Tortoise
Photo Credit Michele Menegon
Photo Credit Greg Lasley
Photo Credit Stuart Shearer
Photo Credit Allan Hopkins
Photo Credit Carmelo López
Photo Credit: Fayne
Photo Credit: Michele Menegon
The leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) is a large and attractively marked tortoise found in the savannas of eastern and southern Africa, from Sudan to the southern Cape. It is the only member of the genus Stigmochelys, although in the past it was commonly placed in Geochelone.This tortoise is a grazing species that favors semi-arid, thorny to grassland habitats. In both very hot and very cold weather they may dwell in abandoned fox, jackal, or aardvark holes. Leopard tortoises do not dig other than to make nests in which to lay eggs. Given its propensity for grassland habitats, it grazes extensively upon mixed grasses. It also favors succulents and thistles.
The leopard tortoise is the fourth largest species of tortoise in the world, with typical adults reaching 40 centimetres (16 in) and weighing 13 kilograms (29 lb). Adults tend to be larger in the northern and southern ends of their range, where typical specimens weigh up to 20 kilograms (44 lb) and an exceptionally large tortoise may reach 70 centimetres (28 in) and weigh 40 kilograms (88 lb).
The carapace is high and domed with steep, almost vertical sides. Juveniles and young adults are attractively marked with black blotches, spots or even dashes and stripes on a yellow background. In mature adults the markings tend to fade to a nondescript brown or grey. The head and limbs are uniformly colored yellow, tan, or brown
Ecology And Behavior
Leopard tortoises are herbivorous; their diet consists of a wide variety of plants including forbs, thistles, grasses, and succulents. They will sometimes gnaw on bones or even hyena feces to obtain calcium, necessary for bone development and their eggshells. Seeds will pass undigested through the gut, so the leopard tortoise plays a significant role in seed dispersal. Normally active during the day, they are less active during hot weather or during the dry season.[5==
A very long-lived animal, the leopard tortoise reaches sexual maturity between the ages of 12 and 15 years. During the mating season, males will fight over females, ramming and butting their competitors. They will trail after females for quite some distance, often ramming them into submission. When mating, the male makes grunting vocalizations. Nesting occurs between May and October when the female digs a hole and lays a clutch of 5 to 30 eggs. As many as 5–7 clutches may be laid in a single season. Incubation will take 8–15 months depending on temperature. There are numerous predators of the eggs and hatchlings including monitor lizards, snakes, jackals and crows. Adults have few natural predators but lions and hyenas have occasionally been reported preying on them