Friday, April 13, 2012

Leopard Tortoise

Stigmochelys pardalis
The Leopard Tortoise, sometimes also referred to as the African Leopard Tortoise is a large, colorful species of reptile that can be found throughout the grassland and semi-arid regions of the African continent. They also happen to be popular in the pet industry.

What blows my mind about keeping these guys as pets is that they can grow to be over 2ft long! One typically thinks of pet reptiles as living in small little terrariums, but not these Tortoises! They are actually best kept in large outdoor pens in very warm, dry areas. And have I mentioned that they can live more than 50 years? That is a lifetime pet commitment right there!

While we're discussing size, I should also note that these are the fourth largest Tortoises in the entire world, and can weigh more than 50lbs. Surprisingly, even with all that weight, Leopard Tortoises are pretty good at getting around. They have small claws on their front feet that give them good maneuverability over bumpy terrain, and young Tortoises have even been observed making vertical climbs!

Leopard Tortoises are not listed by the IUCN, but pet industry demands have affected their wild numbers in some areas. It has been illegal to import them into the United States since 2000, which is definitely a good thing. Wild-caught Leopard Tortoises do not adjust well in captivity, carry several different parasites, and those that live often need a substantial amount of rehabilitation. Thankfully there are now captive breeders to supply those who feel that a giant long-lived Tortoise is the right pet for them.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Africa
Size : Body length around 18in (45cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Sauropsida -- Order : Testudines
Family : Testudinidae -- Genus : Stigmochelys -- Species : S. pardalis

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