Leopard Tortoise

Family: Testudinidae Picture of a Leopard Tortoise, Geochelone pardalisGeochelone pardalisPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Russ Gurley
Latest Reader Comment - See More
Hi Doug, I'm wondering where I can get the Vit. E for my tortoise? -Thanks! " If you want to really perk up your Tortoise, apply vitaman E on the entire... (more)  Anonymous

   Leopard Tortoises are among the most beautiful pet tortoises!

   Leopard Tortoises are beautiful black and yellow tortoises with intricate spotted patterns on their shells. They are very shy when small, but will become more and more outgoing as they get used to their keeper's activities. Captive-hatched specimens are quite hardy as long as their husbandry requirements are met.

For more Information see:
Selecting and Caring for Your Turtle or Tortoise


Geographic Distribution
Geochelone pardalis
See All Data at Google Maps
Data provided by GBIF.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Testudines
  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Genus: Geochelone
  • Species: pardalis

Distribution:    Leopard Tortoises are found in hot, dry scrubland areas in southern Africa. They live in the underbrush, seeking refuge from the heat under brushy plants and other shady areas. They browse on grass and plant growth.

Status   This tortoise is not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species but is listed on CITES: Appendix II.

Description:    One of the most beautiful of the pet tortoises, the shell of the Leopard Tortoise is black and yellow with intricate spotted patterns. They can grow quite large with many adults reaching 14" to 16" (35 - 40 cm). Large females can even reach 18" to 20" (46 - 51 cm) and 40 to 60 pounds, but captive specimens this large are rare.

Care and Feeding:    Leopard Tortoises should be fed a diet that is very high in fiber. They will feed eagerly on a mixed salad of greens and vegetables each day, but you should try to offer as much grass, hay, dandelions, leaves, and Opuntia cactus pads as possible. A sprinkle of calcium should be offered on the salad every few times.
   For optimal health, they should be fed fruits only sparingly or not at all. You can offer some melon, apple, and other fruits during the hot summers, but only once every ten days to two weeks. Leopard Tortoises should not be fed any dog food or cat food and commercial foods only very seldom as they are prone to renal problems and medical issues related to high protein diets.
   Water should be offered in a flat saucer. This can be a flat dish or a plastic saucer which is normally placed under a plant pot. These can be easily cleaned and sterilized once a week or as needed.

Environment:
   Leopard Tortoises require warm, dry environments and so if you live in a humid area be very careful about keeping Leopard Tortoises outdoors. Living on the damp ground will cause them serious medical problems. Due to their large size, a pair of adult Leopard Tortoises will require an enclosure that is at least 4' wide x 6' long.
   The substrate can be a mixture of ¾ sand and ¼ peat moss. A layer of grass hay can be added at one end to provide some shelter. The substrate should be kept dry as Leopard Tortoises are very sensitive to damp conditions.
   Heat should be provided using a heat-emitting bulb in a lamp from overhead. Ideally, this heat lamp should hang just about 12" above the substrate. The heat-emitting bulb should provide a basking spot of 90{deg} to 95{deg} F (32{deg} to 35{deg} C) at one end of the enclosure. This will provide a hot end for the tortoise to enjoy.
   For lighting, place a shop light fixture overhead that is fitted with one or two UV-emitting bulbs. These can be found at your pet store or on-line from a variety of sources. UVB-heat bulbs® from T-Rex products and Reptisun® bulbs from Zoomed will also provide UV radiation to the enclosure. This UVB is necessary for Vitamin D3 production (needed for calcium absorption, proper muscle functioning, etc.).
   Leopard Tortoises are shy and so be sure to provide a variety of shelters to give the them a feeling of security. Add large pieces of curved cork bark, large banana leaves, piles of straw or hay, etc. for the tortoises to use as shelter. The shelter should be located at the cooler end of the enclosure and not directly under the heat-emitting lamps. Indoors:
   The most common form of indoor accommodation for small or medium sized Leopard Tortoises is a large terrarium. Keepers can use plastic tubs, wooden cages, and other enclosures, but glass terrariums are easy to find at the local pet store and they come in a variety of sizes. Of course, as the tortoise grows, it will need larger and larger enclosures.
Outdoors:
   All tortoises benefit from being kept outdoors for all or part of their lives. They receive doses of UVB radiation, environmental heat, and of course enjoy a connection to the grass, plants, and soil found in outdoor pens. Outdoor enclosures should offer shelter from heat, a secure place to rest, and a water source. Food can be offered to tortoises and can be supplemented by plantings of some of their favorite grasses, fruits, and vegetables within the enclosure. A keeper must be very diligent to make sure that outdoor enclosures are escape-proof and predator-proof.

Handling:    Leopard Tortoises are shy, so provide a variety of shelters to give these tortoises a feeling of security. As a shy species, most Leopard Tortoises will not enjoy being handled. They will often retreat into their shells and stay tightly wedged in with their large, scaly legs covering their heads. Of course, there are always exceptions and occasionally very outgoing, almost tame, Leopard Tortoises are seen. These are usually specimens that have been raised from small, captive-hatched babies and which are open to daily interaction over many years.

Breeding:    An established pair of Leopard Tortoises can be very prolific and in warm areas can produce year-round. A light winter cooling, followed by hot days triggers breeding in Leopard Tortoises. Sometimes pairs take several years to "bond" and until this occurs, females will often refuse the male's attempts to mate. A healthy, active pair can produce two clutches of 10 to 20 eggs each season.
   It is felt by most keepers that the addition of protein and calcium to a female Leopard Tortoise's diet is essential in having them produce clutches of healthy, viable eggs. Eggs hatch in as many as 150 days when incubated in the 82{deg} to 86{deg} F range of temperatures.

Ailments / Health Problems:    Leopard Tortoises are found in hot, dry habitats. Thus, their captive enclosures should reflect this need. When kept cool or damp for an extended period of time, you can expect a Leopard Tortoise to begin showing respiratory problems. The early signs are puffy eyes, runny noses, etc. You should strive to maintain an enclosure that is hot and dry to avoid these health issues.
   Leopard Tortoises are really only available as captive-hatched babies these days, so you should not be concerned about internal parasites unless a baby has been kept in the enclosure with wild-caught adults or wild-caught tortoises of another species.
   Long-term lack of appetite, runny or smelly stools, and blood in the feces are signs of a problem and you should visit a qualified veterinarian if any of these signs are noticed.

Availability:    Leopard Tortoises are readily available from better reptile stores, on-line, or at reptile shows and expos.
   Try to purchase your tortoise from a breeder or someone with intimate knowledge of tortoises. They will help you set up the proper enclosure and will give you helpful hints so you are successful. Also, if you don't have to ship your tortoise, that is always best. A beginning keeper should purchase a tortoise that is at least three months old to make sure it is past the delicate stage.


Author: Russ Gurley
Additional Information: Clarice Brough, CRS
Edited by Animal-World.
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Lastest Animal Stories on Leopard Tortoise

Anonymous - 2008-10-05
Hi Doug,

I'm wondering where I can get the Vit. E for my tortoise?

-Thanks!

" If you want to really perk up your Tortoise, apply vitaman E on the entire Tortoise and rub in with your fingers. This keeps their shells beautiful and healthy. It also relieves any discomforts they are having from shedding of their skin. Doug Wolkow, Highlands Ranch, CO." - Doug Wolkow

  • Patty - 2010-06-25
    Really don't rub any oil or waxy material onto your tortoise's shell! They need to have a clean surface to exchange heat with their environment. Do not paint them with polish/paint. Do not rub oils on them. Do not apply any oils, period. Vitamin E, do not use either. What do I need to do to get this through to you people?
  • Pam Lane - 2013-03-03
    Spend time researching please!
  • Dr. Ray - 2013-05-03
    Vitamin E is really good for tortoise shells....you don't use it all the time but it does not hurt tortoise heating issues. You do not paint tortoises either! Vitamin e and paint are two different things. Whoever said put vitamin e on shell is 100 percent correct..
  • mallorys12 - 2014-03-10
    As long as they have a heat lamp and and uv lamp that's all they need, and a good dust for their shells, should stay nice anyway.
Reply
Doug Wolkow - 2008-11-08
You can purchase Vitamin E in gel capsules from any store. You take a needle and poke the capsule with the needle and squeeze out the liquid Vitamin E. If you do not want to use your fingers to rub in the Vitamin E then simply use a Q Tip.

Doug Wolkow,
Highlands Ranch, Co.
2008

Reply
Doug Wolkow - 2006-04-04
If your leopard Tortoise is eating well and not having regular bowel movements you need to be soaking them. You should soak your Leopard Tortoise twice a week for good digestion and growth. A shallow area which is luke warm with water, do not overfill the soaking area. Water should be a little over the bottom of the tortoises carapace. The water stimulates their system and rejuvenates them. You should have a healthy bowell movement within a half an hour. Growth of your Tortoise and appetite will also increase. Make sure to dry Tortoise off after soaking it and place in basking area. If you want to really perk up your Tortoise, apply vitaman E on the entire Tortoise and rub in with your fingers. This keeps their shells beautiful and healthy. It also relieves any discomforts they are having from shedding of their skin.

Doug Wolkow,

Highlands Ranch, CO.

Reply
Sabrina - 2010-03-21
I just put my 10 year old leopard tortoise on sand and loam. She is getting all this sand in her food. How can I prevent this and is this the wrong kind of substrate. IF it is ok what percentage loam and what percentage sand should i use.

  • Doug Wolkow - 2010-04-29
    You should never, never use sand or any substance for a tortoises bedding. Sand and small pieces of any foreign objects get bound in the tortoises digestive tract. This leads to a lot of unhealthy blockages for the specimen. I suggest using a pretreated wood mulch, Timothy Hay, or a solid dirt ground with a grass or straw bedding area. Do not ever use sand! You should also be putting calcium and vitamin powder on all your tortoises feedings.
  • Leslie Andress - 2011-05-05
    I have always used rabbit pellets for the substrate for my leopard tort. He has never had a problem with it and if it gets on his food, he can eat it.
  • Gary Liska - 2012-01-30
    Anything that can impact is something you should avoid, despite sand abundant in the wild - there are safe alteratives such as topsoil and dry rabbit beddings such as dry alfalfa and or hay. My tortoise came to me at only 65grams and now, 2 years later comes in at 5lbs. Digestion is a key focus for your tortoise - change your substrate to avoid impaction potential.







Reply
nick - 2012-03-25
hiya i have just buy a leopard tortise and the shell look matt. does that suppose to be like that.
thanks ..

Reply

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