The leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) is one of the largest tortoise species in the world; the fourth largest to be precise. It is also referred to as the African leopard tortoise at times, owing to its geographical range, which extends from Sudan to southern Cape in the continent of Africa. It is one of the most sought-after exotic pets in the world and therefore, its breeding has become a full-fledged commercial activity today.
Facts about Leopard Tortoise
Though the animal belongs to the genus Stigmochelys, it was initially placed in the Geochelone genus alongside the African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata). The term pardalis in its scientific name is derived from the Latin word pardus, meaning leopard. The name leopard tortoise can be attributed to the black spots on its shell, which resemble those of a leopard to significant extent. It can grow up to a length of 18 inches and weigh around 18 lbs at full growth. On an average, this tortoise is known to live for around 50 - 60 years; even more, if subjected to proper care.
The diet of this tortoise most often consists of green or dry grass and thus, it prefers the semi-arid grasslands of Africa. Though their habitat is typically characterized by scanty rainfall, some individuals have been observed in areas with significant rainfall as well. If you plan to keep it as a pet, being aware of its characteristic natural habitat can turn out to be of great help, as you can create a replica of the same to make it feel at home.
Do They Make Good Pets?
Even though it is one of the largest species of tortoise in the world, its docile temperament makes it an ideal pet. As far as its habitat in captivity is concerned, you should ideally choose an area in the open. You can use soft sand and dry grass to make the substrate of your pet's habitat. Make a small shelter for the tortoise in one corner and equip it with 100-watt UV lamp. A temperature of around 80ºF is ideal, though you need to make sure that it never exceeds 100ºF, or dips below 70ºF for that matter.
Though this tortoise most often feeds on grass in its natural habitat, you can also include some dark green leafy vegetables in its diet. Fruits are best avoided and foods high in protein should be kept minimal. It is important that you give your pet tortoise enough time to graze. Following these aspects of leopard tortoise care will ensure that your pet stays healthy and has a long lifespan.
Over the last few years, quite a few countries have banned the import of this species and instead, given a nod to the idea of breeding them. Experts believe that this will reduce the pressure on this species in the wild, as it is already threatened by excessive hunting for food by the locals. Though the species is not threatened by extinction as of now, we need to ensure that it never features in the Red List compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).