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Baby Pancake Tortoise Drinking

 Pancake Tortoise :

Malacochersus Tornieri

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia :


The pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) is a flat-shelled tortoise native to Tanzania andKenya. Its name is derived from the flat shape of its shell. It is the only member of the genusMalacochersus.[citation needed]



Pancake tortoise

Conservation status:








Scientific classification







Species:M. tornieri

Binomial name

Malacochersus tornieri
(Siebenrock, 1903)


  • Testudo tornieri Siebenrock, 1903

  • Testudo loveridgii Boulenger, 1920

  • Malacochersus tornieri Mertens, Müller & Rust, 1934

  • Malacochersus loveridgei Pritchard, 1967 (ex errore)

  • Malacochersus torneiri Paull, 1997(ex errore)

Description :


The pancake tortoise has an unusually thin, flat, flexible shell, which is up to 17.8 centimetres (7.0 in) long.[2][3] While the shell bones of most other tortoises are solid, the pancake tortoise has shell bones with many openings, making it lighter and more agile than other tortoises.[4] The carapace (top shell) is brown, frequently with a variable pattern of radiating dark lines on each scute (shell plate), helping to camouflage the tortoise in its natural dry habitat.[2][4][5] The plastron (bottom shell) is pale yellow with dark brown seams and light yellow rays,[5] and the head, limbs and tail are yellow-brown.[2] Its bizarre, flattened, pancake-like profile makes this tortoise a sought-after animal in zoological and private collections, leading to its over-exploitation in the wild.[6]


Distribution and habitat :


This East African species is native to southern Kenya and northern and eastern Tanzania,[5] and an introduced population may also occur in Zimbabwe.[7] The species has also been reported inZambia.[8] It is found on hillsides with rocky outcrops (known as kopjes) in arid thorn scrub andsavanna, from 100 to 6,000 feet (30 to 1800 metres) above sea level.[3][5][9] The species inhabits the Somalia-Masai floristic region, an arid semi-desert characterized by Acacia-Commiphora bushlandand Brachystegia woodland in upland localities.[10][11] It occurs in dry savannah of low altitude at small rocky hills of the crystalline basement.


Ecology and behavior :


Pancake tortoises live in isolated colonies, with many individuals sharing the same kopje, or even crevice.[5] Males fight for access to females during the mating season, in January and February, with large males tending to get the most chances to mate.[2][5] Nesting in the wild seems to occur in July and August, although clutches are produced year-round in captivity. The female digs a nest cavity about 7.5 to 10 cm deep in loose, sandy soil.[2] Usually only one egg is laid at a time, but a female can lay multiple eggs over the course of a single season, with eggs appearing every four to eight 


weeks.[2][4] In captivity, the incubation of the eggs lasts from four to six months,[5] and young are independent as soon as they hatch.[12] Wild and captive specimens often bask and, although they do not appear to hibernate, there are reports that they may aestivate beneath flat rocks during the hottest months.[2][4]


Most activity occurs during the morning hours or in the late afternoon and early evening. The diet primarily consists of dry grasses and vegetation. The pancake tortoise is a fast and agile climber, and is rarely found far from its rocky home so that, if disturbed, it can make a dash for the nearest rock crevice.[2] Since this tortoise could easily be torn apart by predators, it must rely on its speed and flexibility to escape from dangerous situations, rather than withdrawing into its shell.[5] The flexibility of its shell allows the pancake tortoise to crawl into narrow rock crevices to avoid potential predators,[2] thus exploiting an environment that no other tortoise is capable of using.[6]


Threats and conservation :


The greatest threats facing the pancake tortoise are habitat destruction and its over-exploitation by the pet trade.[9] Given the low reproductive rate of this tortoise, populations that have been harvested may take a long time to recover. Commercial development diminishes the amount of suitable habitat for pancake tortoises, which already is neither common nor extensive.[6] Tortoises in Kenya are threatened by clearance of thorn scrub for conversion to agriculture and in Tanzania by over-grazing of goats and cattle.[9]


The pancake tortoise is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).[7][9] In 1981, Kenya banned the export of the pancake tortoise unless given written permission by the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources. Tanzania protects this species under the Wildlife Conservation (National Game) Order, 1974,[9] and it is protected within the Serengeti National Park.[4] CITES quotas also limit the number of these animals that can be exported from Tanzania, although violations of these quotas are thought to occur. The European Union banned the import of the pancake tortoise in 1988, but trade with EU members continues, with several countries having reported importing the species.[9] The pancake tortoise has been bred in captivity and is now the subject of a coordinated breeding programme in European zoos.[12] However, there are no commercial breeding operations to supply the market demand.[9]



For refrences and external links click here to read the wikipedia article .. .. .





Pancake Tortoise – (Malacochersus tornieri) – Paula Morris 


courtesy to :  World Chelonian Trust.  

Pancake Tortoise - Malacochersus tornieri

This care sheet is intended only to cover the general care of this species. Further research to best develop a maintenance plan for whichever species/subspecies you are caring for is essential. 


Pancake tortoises possess one of the most unusual survival adaptations within Chelonia. Instead of the usual rounded vault of the carapace, the Pancake tortoise has a flattened shell and non-rigid, hingeless plastron and fenestration (holes) in its skeletal structure. In contrast to most chelonians,  the Pancake tortoise has no natural defenses other than its ability to stay hidden or unobserved. It  has evolved with fewer bones and uncharacteristic shell flexibility compared to other species.

In the wild, deep, tapering crevices in stone outcroppings called kopjes provide protection and microclimates for the Pancake tortoises, and they have evolved highly articulating limbs that allow them to climb nearly vertical rock surfaces and right themselves should they fall in the process. Captively-bred Pancake hatchlings, although staying largely hidden during the day, nearly immediately exhibit the same climbing ability and articulation as the adult tortoises. Delicately curved and pointed toenails facilitate their rapid retreat to safety. Most captive Pancake tortoises, though, lose the need for these points and the nails thicken and round, and require trimming unless appropriate opportunities to climb are provided.



Individual, unique patterns of alternating radiating cream and brown bars on the carapacial scutes help the tortoises blend into their surroundings while foraging. When startled they will literally run for rocky outcrops; they are considered the fastest moving tortoise of all tortoise species because of their lighter skeletal structure. The flexible plastron allows them to wedge tightly into low spaces where predators cannot pull them out. It was once believed that these tortoises could inflate their lungs to make extraction difficult, but instead it has been shown that they rotate their forelimbs outward and dig in with their claws.


Pancake tortoises occur naturally in Tanzania and Kenya, Africa. Due to their locality-specific physical adaptations, they are in particular peril from habitat destruction and overcollection within their natural range. They are currently listed as CITES-II, with CITES-I designation imminent.


Malacochersus is a non-hibernating species that has no tolerance for consistently damp or high-humidity environments, nor cold and damp conditions imposed by outdoor weather. If kept outdoors part of the year, they must be provided with a protecting shelter warmed with a ceramic heat emitter to dissipate any ambient moisture. Do not allow them to go to ground on cold/damp soil. Ingestion of pathogens during foraging on the ground can lead to a condition called otitis media, and presents as a swelling or lump on the tympanic flap; it must then be treated by a veterinarian. Other susceptibilities include viral stomatitis and hexamita. Observe the tortoises as they eat and look for pink, healthy mouth tissue. Use your nose, too! Any foul odor from urine or feces mandates a test by your vet to determine cause.


If you acquire a new tortoise, quarantine for a minimum of six months prior to introduction to the others and get a complete health examination from a veterinarian conversant with reptiles. Chelonians are experts at appearing healthy, even if they’re not. A single diseased animal can infect and kill your collection.


HOUSING PANCAKE TORTOISES INDOORS – Expert climbers, Pancakes will need to be housed in a habitat with either an inward-facing lip or mesh covering to prevent climb-outs. Communal by evolution, they can be housed in small groups, preferably with a single male presiding over a harem of females. Avoid housing tortoises of disparate sizes together.


Substrate can be anything from newsprint to a packed soil mix tailored for this arid-dwelling species. A mixture of topsoil and children’s play sand works well. Scatter slabs/piles of hygroscopic sandstone or patio flagstone to wear down claws and beaks and provide texture and contour. Do not ever place food directly onto particulate substrate; sand, especially, can build up in the tortoises’ gastro-intestinal tract and cause impaction and even death. Feed in a separate sand-free area of the habitat.


Avoid any substrate that retains excessive moisture that can breed mold. I do not advise using hay since damp hay can culture dangerous mold. I have had success housing my group on newsprint (easy to change out). For shelter I use chunks of ±2 inch-thick limestone rock to support a large, thin slab of patio flagstone over which I direct a 100-Watt ceramic heat emitter. This warms the slab under which the tortoises congregate so their lungs, at the top of the carapace, stay warm instead heating their plastrons. I also have a ziggurat of stone slabs arranged on top of the main slab so the tortoises can climb around on a textured surface. They appreciate vertical contour, indoors or out, and will happily climb if given the opportunity.

Most references state that the Pancake tortoise doesn’t drink much water, but I have found that mine not only drink from the edge of the low dish that I provide, but enjoy sitting in it and often defecating in it, necessitating frequent changing. The water dish also provides a bit of humidity without making the rest of their habitat damp. Hatchlings must have access to fresh water at all times; they drink copiously and often. Water level should be kept no higher than the bridge, but be deep enough for the tortoise to lower its head into it for drinking. The nares (nostrils) should never be under water.


Indoors, in one corner of the environment, position a hardware store reflector clip lamp to provide artificial basking facilities and a basking spot of 95 degrees F or so (35 degrees C). Also provide a full-spectrum fluorescent light for UVB. A UVB source is necessary for Vitamin D3 synthesis (needed in calcium metabolism). A mercury vapor bulb may be used that fulfills all requirements. Place any shelter away from the basking spot to allow the animal a cooler dim retreat. A dry, outdoor habitat during the warmer parts of the year should be utilized for optimum growth/health of the animals, though.


OUTDOOR HOUSING – Predator-proof outdoor habitats offer many advantages over indoor accommodations and should be seriously considered as an option during warm weather. In particular, because of their grazing habits, Pancake tortoises should be kept outside when the climate allows it. A well planted outdoor habitat for food, shelter, UV, and natural behaviors is well worth the minimal investment for the sake of your animal. Provide an inward-facing lip to any perimeter to prevent escapes.


DIET: The Pancake tortoise is an herbivore. It feeds primarily on large amounts of different fibrous grasses and, when available, leafy weeds and greens. A very high fiber, low protein, and calcium-rich diet will ensure good digestive tract function as well as smooth growth. Avoid overreliance upon 'supermarket' greens, which typically contain vastly inadequate fiber levels, excessive pesticide residues, and are too rich in sugar content as they are designed for human consumption. The Pancake tortoise should not be fed any meat-based protein; they are not equipped to digest it properly and will die from renal failure or from impacting bladder stones of solidified urates. Pancake tortoises are a grazing species; every effort should be made to duplicate this diet in captivity.  Do not feed them fruit more than once a month, and then sparingly. My group enjoys a bit of diced tomato and chopped apple, guilty pleasures both.


Optimal diet: Grasses (timothy, bermuda); leafy greens like dandelion, clover, Romaine or other deep green lettuces, grape leaves, mulberry leaves; weeds like plantain, sowthistle, vetch, ajuga, and dandelion; Opuntia cactus pads; and non-pesticided lavatera, nasturtium, hibiscus and rose blooms. Additional calcium supplementation is essential. Powdered calcium can be sprinkled on all foods at each feeding. Provision of a cuttlefish bone, which can be gnawed if desired, is also recommended. Because I am fortunate in being able to keep my tortoises outside during the day most of the year, I supplement with Osteoform powdered calcium without D3 in the summer when they have access to natural sunlight, and use RepCal with D3 in the winter when there’s no D3 available for natural calcium synthesis.


NOTES: Keeping M. tornieri successfully can be a challenge outside its natural climate zone. The species tends to develop respiratory problems if not kept in optimum surroundings. It should be noted that turtle and tortoise care research is ongoing. As new information becomes available we share this on the World Chelonian Trust web site at Serious keepers find it to be a benefit to have the support of others who keep these species. Care is discussed in our free online email community, which may be joined from the web address above. Please contact us about the many benefits of becoming a member of the World Chelonian Trust. 



Pancake tortoises are unlike any other tortoise in the world.

(Malacochersus tornieri)


Adult shell length ranges from 6 to 7 inches long and about 1 inch tall

Life Span

At least 35 years and most likely much longer


Southern Kenya and northern and western Tanzania

Natural Habitat

Rocky hills and slopes with rocky outcrops in arid savanna and scrub areas at altitudes from 100 to 6,000 feet

Captive Housing :


Pancake tortoises can be housed indoors or outdoors. An indoor enclosure can be a 40-gallon terrarium or larger. Substrates of bark, coconut bedding or rabbit pellets are OK. Potting soil can also be used, but make sure it doesn’t contain fertilizer, pesticides or manure. Include a shallow water bowl large enough for the tortoise to soak.


Also provide hiding and climbing areas. I recommend the realistic artificial-rock hides on the market today. Give the tortoise two hiding spots: one on the cool side of the tank and one on the warm side. Flat rocks can also be stacked carefully in a corner of the enclosure to provide crevices for them to explore.


A fluorescent UVB bulb spanning the length of the enclosure takes care of the lighting needs. Provide a photoperiod of 12 hours of daylight.


For heating, a ceramic heat emitter of the appropriate wattage can provide a hotspot of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooler side of the enclosure can range from 70 to 75 degrees. This temperature gradient allows the tortoise to choose its preferred body temperature. Keep the heat emitter on 24 hours a day.


Housing pancake tortoises outdoors is fine as long as you follow some enclosure-design precautions. Enclosure size needs to be at least 4 square feet for up to two tortoises. Add 2 square feet for every additional tortoise. Walls should be at least 1 foot tall, but taller is better for full-grown adults. The goal is to make sure they can’t reach the top when standing against the wall on their hind legs. I also recommend a screen top that covers the entire enclosure, because pancake tortoises are master climbers that can scale vertical walls when the mood hits them. A top ensures that your tortoise can’t leave. Set up cage furniture like you would for an indoor enclosure, but keep all rocks and other scalable items away from the enclosure walls.


Pancake tortoises can be housed outdoors in the spring, summer and fall in areas of the country where temperatures are suitable. However, because pancake tortoises don’t hibernate, they have to be housed indoors during the winter.


Unlike many tortoises, pancake tortoises run when they get scared. They seek narrow cracks in the rocks and hold tight with their front legs, so they can’t be pulled out. Good climbers, they live in caves, under rocks and in tight cracks on rocky ledges. 




These herbivores feed on a variety of fresh and dry grasses, and some fruit in the wild. In captivity they eat a variety of grasses, hay, greens (such as collard, turnip and mustard), along with dandelion, endive, squash, carrots, hibiscus leaves, and many other vegetables and leafy greens. They also eat several of the commercial diets, which can be used to supplement fresh food. Supplement all fresh food items with calcium and multivitamins.


What’s Available


Years ago wild pancake tortoises were collected by the hundreds for the pet trade. Export to Europe and the United States actually started to threaten wild populations. Currently very few exports occur, and any that do are strictly regulated. For that reason, the supply of pancake tortoises has dropped, and their price has climbed.


Captive bred is way to go. However, because these tortoises only lay two to five eggs per year, production in captivity is somewhat low, and finding captive-bred pancake tortoises is sometimes difficult. But if more people insist on captive-bred tortoises, then more people will breed them to sell, and this will help preserve the wild populations.  

Pancake Care videos 

1st Day - Young Pancake Tortoise in New Enclosure

Pancake Tortoise Care

Creature Feature: Pancake Tortoises

Tortoises  -  Introduction Care and breeding - General information   PART one   ..  PART two 

                      -   Species List :                        

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