Pancake Tortoise

Breakfast of Champions!

Hello Defenders! Who’s hungry? Well get out your syrup and butter, because our newest Animal of the Week is a real fluffy treat…well, at least its name is. That’s right, it’s the Pancake Tortoise, and they are some of the coolest members of the Testudines order – the family of turtles, tortoises, and terrapins! Pancake Tortoises get their name from the shape of their shell – most tortoises have rounder shells, while turtles usually have flatter shells…but the Pancake Tortoise is an exception to this soft rule. They are a small to medium sized tortoise, and currently listed as “vulnerable” for their conservation status – habitat destruction and being over-used in the pet trade are the biggest threats to the species, especially since they have a low reproductive rate.

How long do Pancake Tortoises live?

If you’ve seen our comparison video between turtles and tortoises, you should know that tortoises are the ones who have the longer lifespan, by a good bit. However, the Pancake Tortoise really is an outlier because they break almost all the rules of being a tortoise! Not only are their shells a flatter shape like a turtle, they tend to have a shorter lifespan as well. In captivity it is around 35 years, and because of threats in nature their wild lifespan is a little less, around 25 years.

Do Pancake Tortoises hibernate?

Many tortoises will hibernate at different times, depending on their climate – a tortoise living in the hot dry desert might hide out underground during the hottest months. Another might hibernate during winter like we normally think about. Well that’s another thing that doesn’t apply to the Pancake Tortoise – these guys do not hibernate during the cold months or the hot months. While it is OK to house a pet pancake tortoise in an outside enclosure, they definitely need to be inside during the winter months because they won’t be hibernating.

How fast is a Pancake Tortoise?

Well so far the Pancake Tortoise keeps breaking our expectations of what a tortoise is…and this fact is even more surprising, Defenders! We all know that turtles/tortoises are considered slow, old, animals…while they may win the race against the hare at the end, they take their sweet time getting to the finish line. Not the Pancake Tortoise! These tortoises are believed to be the fastest tortoises, as well as some of the best climbers, and while most tortoises prefer the safety of their shells when scared, the Pancake Tortoise is ready to run! Their natural habitat is filled with rocky crevices to hide in, so a frightened Pancake Tortoise will make a quick and speedy retreat to the rocks when in danger.

Where does the Pancake Tortoise live?

Also known as the African Pancake Tortoises, their natural range is of course going to be in Africa! They are generally found from Tanzania to Kenya, and the species was also introduced to Zimbabwe. Hillsides with the rocky crevices they can hide in tend to be their favorite natural home, and they are also found throughout the savanna and desert scrubland habitats. These tortoises tend to live in colonies together, so there can be many tortoises inhabiting the same crevice.

What are the predators of a Pancake Tortoise?

Africa is filled with some of the strongest predators in the world, however the Pancake Tortoise usually is not on the radar of the big game. However, even with their speed and their shells, there are still a few key animals that like a warm Pancake (Tortoise) for breakfast! Wild dogs in Africa, as well as the sneaky mongoose both will prey upon a Pancake Tortoise if they get the chance.