Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



African pancake tortoise

By MSA 2005 Map showing rocky outcrops in grasslands habitats in eastern Africa


Class Reptilia
Order: Chelonia
Family: Testudinidae
Genus and species: Malacochersus tornieri

When threatened, the African pancake tortoise doesn't withdraw into its shell as other turtles and tortoises do. Instead, its flat shell enables it to slip into narrow crevices where it can't be reached by predators.

Because the shell is also extremely thin, the tortoise's shell moves as the animal breathes. When the tortoise is in hiding, it puffs itself up, making it impossible for it to be dislodged from the rocks.

African pancake tortoises are herbivores, surviving on a diet of grass and fallen fruits.

Breeding generally takes place in January to February with nesting occurring in July to August. Females lay one to two clutches of eggs every year, each consisting of one to four eggs. The hatchlings emerge after an incubation of anywhere from 113 to 221 days.

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