Pancake Tortoise Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Pancake tortoises, Tornier's tortoise

Scientific Name:

Malacochersus tornieri

Wild Status:



rocky outcrops (known as kopjes) in arid thorn scrub and savanna


Tanzania and Kenya


narrow rock crevices

Life Span:

Up to 35 years in captivity, 25 years in the wild


6 to 7 inches

Cool Facts:

  • The Pancake tortoise is the fastest tortoise species.
  • The Pancake tortoise shell is flat, thin and flexible.
  • The Pancake tortoise will choose to run away from a predator.
  • The main predators of the Pancake tortoise are mongoose and wild dogs.
  • Female Pancake tortoise's lay one egg.
  • Pancake tortoises are great climbers.
  • Pancake tortoises are herbivores.


Pancake tortoises are known for their flat carapace (top shell) which is brown and enables them to camouflage well. Pancake tortoises live in small colonies and the males will sometimes fight each other during mating season. The Pancake tortoises shells are not great protectors for them, however they are faster then other tortoises and because of their flat shell can hide  in small crevices and rocks. Females lay one egg but can lay eggs multiple times during their mating season. The eggs will hatch within 4 to 6 months. The Pancake tortoise is mainly active in the morning, late afternoon and early evening.    

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Reptilia Order: Testudines Suborder: Cryptodira Family: Testudinidae Genus: Malacochersus Species: Malacochersus tornieri

Conservation & Helping:

Habitat destruction and pet trading are major threats to the Pancake tortoise. Kenya has banned the export of the Pancake Tortoise unless given written permission by the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources. Tanzania protects them through the Wildlife Conservation (National Game) Order.  The European Union also has banned the exporting of these tortoises.

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