African pancake tortoise

Malacochersus tornieri

Scientific Name

African pancake tortoise:  
Malacochersus tornieri

Distribution and Habitat

Geographic Range

The pancake tortoise is found in East Africa, in countries such as Tanzania and Kenya.

Natural Habitat

These small creatures need a warm and dry environment. They can be found in elevations varying from 100–6,000 ft. above sea level. They enjoy living in dry, rocky outcropping areas as they are excellent climbers.

Physical Characteristics

  • These tortoises are very unusual looking as far as tortoises go. They are up to 7 inches in length and about 1–1.5 inches in height. They are considered very fast and excellent escape artists due to their speed. This tortoise would rather run for cover than simply go into its shell! They are a golden brown to an olive brown in color with random patterns on each scute aiding to their camouflaged look.

Quick Facts

  1. The pancake tortoise does not need to drink water very often as they get most of their fluids from the food that they eat.

  2. The shell of a Pancake tortoise is very flexible and can be bent and depressed with only mild pressure.

  3. Luckily for the Pancake tortoise, less bone means a lighter animal, so Pancakes can move more quickly than a tortoise with a thick shell. It is quite possible that they are the fastest tortoises in the world.


Amphibian and Reptile Center

Conservation Status

Critically Endangered: The African pancake tortoise is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

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Their diet consists mainly of grasses and dark leafy green vegetables such as collards and turnip greens. They also enjoy the occasional tomato, cucumber, and piece of fruit with the melon being their favorite.