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Pancake tortoise

Malacochersus tornieri

Pancake tortoise

The pancake tortoise is different from other tortoises. As its name suggested, this tortoise’s shell is thin, soft and flexible and it has fewer, lighter bones.

It is probably the fastest moving tortoise because it is so light and has slender, supple legs and curved, pointed toenails.

It is also an expert climber, scaling near vertical surfaces. The flexible shell allows it to wedge tightly into cracks in rocks, so predators cannot pull it out.

It shares its home with our blue spiny lizard.

Animal class


Diet - Herbivore
Pancake tortoises eat dry grasses, wild flowers and other vegetation.

Pancake tortoises can be up to 18 centimetres long.

Pancake tortoises prefer dry areas, with small hills and rocky outcrops, in Kenya and Tanzania.

Conservation status
The IUCN considers the pancake tortoise to be at a high risk of extinction in the wild. They are listed under Appendix II of CITES.

The pancake tortoise is threatened by the pet trade and continued habitat loss.

Current population
There are no official records of how many pancake tortoises there are in the wild. It is believed that they are in steep decline.

Zoo population
The pancake tortoise is managed under an ESB. There are 500 living in zoos around the world.

Key to acronyms

IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature

CITES - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

ESB - European Studbook

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