Crevice tortoise, Softshell tortoise, Tornier's tortoise, African pancake tortoise
The Pancake tortoise is the oddest and the most interesting of the chelonians. These small tortoises with flat shells inhabit regions of eastern Africa, particularly Kenya and Tanzania. The name comes from the animal’s thin, flat shell. These tortoises are excellent climbers and do not withdraw into their shells when threatened by predators, unlike other tortoises. Instead they run away to their rocky home, usually in a narrow rock crevice. This species is the last living member of the genus Malacochersus.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material, for example, foliage, for the main component of its die...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Grazing is a method of feeding in which a herbivore feeds on plants such as grasses, or other multicellular organisms such as algae. In agriculture...
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
Hibernation is a state of minimal activity and metabolic depression undergone by some animal species. Hibernation is a seasonal heterothermy charac...
Aestivation is a state of animal dormancy, similar to hibernation, although taking place in the summer rather than the winter. Aestivation is chara...
Pancake tortoises are endemic to southern Kenya and northern and eastern Tanzania. They also occur in Zambia and Zimbabwe, having been introduced to Zimbabwe. They are usually found in the rocky outcrops and hills of arid scrub areas, in the flat grasslands or dry savannahs of sub-tropical and tropical areas, and are also found in semi-arid deserts that have scarce vegetation.
The Pancake tortoise is an excellent climber. Its shell is extremely flexible and light, enabling it to crawl quickly into rock crevices when danger threatens. It is always found near it rocky home and so can easily flee to safety. They are active mainly in the morning, coming out to bask and feed. They usually only emerge from their shelter for around an hour at one time, when they are quite mobile and active. Pancake tortoises like to live in colonies that are typically isolated from one another. A number of them might share the same crevice or rocky outcrop. These tortoises do not hibernate but during hot summer months they will aestivate or sleep beneath flattened rocks.
Pancake tortoises are herbivores, they eat dried grasses as well as other vegetation. However, as pets they are fed greens, vegetables and fresh-cut grass. They do not eat fruit.
Little is known about the mating system of the pancake tortoise. However, this species may exhibit either polygynous (one male to many females) or polygynandrous (promiscuous) (both males and females have multiple mates) mating behavior. There is strong competition between males to access a particular female as a mate, and often the larger ones are more successful. In the wild, the breeding season runs from January - February. In zoos, this varies, and the tortoises may breed year-round. From July until August is when nesting occurs. The females lay eggs of about 2 inches in length, in a nest cavity she has built in loose sandy soil. She will lay one egg, and then after 4 - 8 weeks she may lay another one, and then perhaps another. The incubation temperature is 30 degrees Celsius. With captive tortoises, incubation is for four to six months. Hatchlings are just 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) in length and are independent on hatching. Their parents do not look after them.
The biggest threats to Pancake tortoises are habitat destruction and being caught for the illegal pet trade. In Kenya, wild populations are losing their habitat as a result of agricultural development. Overgrazing of domestic goats and cattle in Tanzania is having an impact on this species. Their unique physical attributes make them targets for the pet trade, and as it is juveniles that are taken, this isolates populations in the wild.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Pancake tortoise total population size. Currently this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List.