Description of the Malacochersus Tornieri (Pancake Tortoise)
The malacochersus tornieri (Pancake Tortoise) is a thin, flat shelled small tortoise just as its name
'pancake tortoise' suggests. Its carapace, the top side of the shell, ranges between 6 to 7 inches at maturity with a height of about 1 inch. By this time the pancake tortoise will be weighing about 1 lb. Males at maturity have longer and thicker tails than the females. This may in some way be used to tell the gender of the tortoise. The pancake tortoises are rather odd of all cheolians in that their shells are flexible. Other than the flexible shell, one of the feature that sets this species apart from the rest is their distinctively beautiful patterned carapace.
Their carapace has a brown color with a radiating dark lines pattern on each scuttle. This helps the pancake tortoises camouflage in their naturally dry habitat. Their plastron, the bottom of the shell, is pale yellow with light yellow rays and dark brown seams. The tail, head and limbs are also yellow brown. These distinct features have made the pancake tortoise a highly sought reptile for display in zoos, as a private collection and also for pet trade. Sadly, this has resulted in their overexploitation in the wild.
Where are the Malacochersus Tornieri (Pancake Tortoise) found
Pancake tortoises are native to East Africa, specifically southern Kenya and eastern and northern Tanzania. Other areas the species has been reported to occur include Zambia and Zimbabwe. However, their occurrence Zimbabwe is as a result of introduced populations.
Like all tortoises, the pancake tortoises are terrestrial reptiles and will generally avoid water bodies. However, their small and streamlined bodies give them an advantage compared to other tortoise species when it comes to maneuvering in water although they lack the full capacity of swimmers that includes having webbed feet.
Their natural habitat, to which they well are adapted to, is on the hillsides where they live in the rocky outcrops at altitudes of 100 to 6, 000 feet above sea level. As for vegetation, pancake tortoises are likely to be found in areas of arid thorn scrub and savanna. They are agile and fast climbers and rarely leave their home as their defense mechanism involves escaping unlike the other members of the tortoise family who retract to their shells in case of danger.
Malacochersus Tornieri (Pancake Tortoise) Diet
Pancake tortoises are herbivorous. In the wild, their diet consist mainly of a variety of grass both dry and fresh and some wild fruits. When domesticated, they may be fed on the same wild diet along with greens such as collard, mustard and turnip, squash, hibiscus leaves, carrots and many other common leafy greens and vegetables.
There are also commercial diets available that supplement the greens. Whichever green diet they are fed on, it is important to provide them with multivitamins and calcium as they need this for strong healthy bodies.
Ecology and Behavior
In the wild, pancake tortoises live in isolated colonies sharing the same rocky outcrops as a home. During the mating seasons, usually in January and February, the larger males often get higher chances of mating as accessing the females is usually a fight among the males.
The winners get the chance to mate while losers have to wait for the next mating season for another mating fight before getting a chance. Females lay multiple eggs between July and August. Laying of eggs however occurs once every four to eight weeks during this period with one egg being laid at a time.