Leopard tortoise a.k.a Stigmochelys pardalis
Intro to Leopard Tortoise
The leopard tortoise is a medium-large sized tortoise naturally found in the arid shrublands of sub-Saharan Africa. This tortoise is known for having a beautifully spotted shell . Adult animals reach an average size of about 10 to 18 inches in shell length (although there is are some that can reach 24 inches), which makes them a great alternative to Sulcata tortoises, another highly popular pet tortoise that easily reaches 80-100 pounds. Like all tortoises, they are a long lived animal, with an average life span of about 50 years, so make an effort to plan accordingly to keep these animals throughout their life.
Being a tortoise, they are herbivores, eating a variety of plants and fruits, which is easy to replicate in a captive setting via a trip to the grocery store! A good mix of fresh greens, hay and herbivore pellets can be offered every day, as variety is important in every animal’s diet to ensure proper nutrition. Misting the tortoise’s enclosure everyday and providing a humid substrate such as zoo med forest floor are great ways to keep humidity high, especially for baby tortoises. Proper humidity should range anywhere from 60-75% at the highest, and 30-50% at ambient. Humidity levels can be measured using a hygrometer. It is also recommended to soak baby tortoises in a container of shallow water. This can be done 2 to 3 times a week for about 15-20 minutes to ensure adequate hydration of the tortoise.
Leopard tortoises are diurnal and spend much of the day wandering and grazing as they go, so adequate heat and UVB light must be provided. A hot spot in the low 90 degress F is ideal for baby tortoises, with an ambient temperature of about 80-85 degrees. At night, it is okay for the temperature to drop to the 70s, but no less than the low 60s. Any heat lamps should be positioned on one side of the enclosure, with their water dish and humid area on the opposite end of the basking area to create a heat gradient across the enclosure. 5.0 UVB light should also be provided across the enclosure to allow the tortoise to synthesize nutrients and grow their bones properly. A proper day/night cycle should be given as well, a 12hr on/off schedule works best and can be automated using outlet timers.
A 20 gallon tank or small tortoise pen can be used to house one or two baby tortoises for their first year, outfitted with a shallow water dish large enough for the tortoises to easily use to drink or soak, a food dish, and shaded areas on each side of the enclosure. Small obstacles such as lower set wood pieces and rocks can be added to help the baby tortoises learn how to traverse their surroundings, as well as a thick substrate layer to allow the animals to burrow and hide. As far as adult enclosures go, an outdoor pen is one of the best ways to house them, if the climate of your area allows it. A comfortable adult enclosure can measure eight feet long and six feet wide, and can house up to two animals, but bigger is always better. Leopard tortoises do well outdoors with temperatures ranging from the 70s, all the way up to 100 degrees with a shaded area. Adults can still be kept outside on colder days, as long as a basking area reaches at least 70 degrees during the day. A smaller winter enclosure should also be available as temperatures below 45 can be lethal. It is also crucial to secure any outdoor enclosures to avoid predation, theft and escape of the animals housed. Tortoises about the size of a football can be housed safely outside as long as proper security measures and hiding areas are provided.
Leopard Tortoises For Sale in the Pet Trade
Leopard tortoises are readily available captive bred, as they are a very manageable species to keep and popular among hobbyists. And as said before, they are an excellent alternative to the sulcata tortoise, not only because of size, but also for the lack of destructive behaviors sulcata tortoises are infamous for. Unlike their giant relatives, Leopard tortoises do not burrow nearly as much, and are not as heavily territorial as sulcatas tend to be, although conflict can still arise between males from time to time. Even though they are a much more manageable alternative, it is still important to understand the responsibility of caring for such an animal that can live as long as tortoises do, and know that releasing them is never a good idea, in fact it is illegal in most places.