Fun Pancake Tortoise Facts For Kids

Oluwatosin Michael
Nov 18, 2022 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
African Pancake tortoise is facing extinction due to habitat destruction

Flat, flexible and distinctly evincing the phrase, ‘As flat as a pancake’,  the pancake tortoise is a popular reptile. They possess distinctive physical, as well as behavioral characteristics.

Named after their unique looking shells, the Pancake tortoise is part of the Reptilia Order Testudines Family. However, unlike other tortoises, these organisms have flexible, thin, flat shells.

Due to the presence of too many shell bones openings or holes, the shell of Pancake tortoise is very agile and lightweight. They have a flexible shell and can crawl into narrow bindings of rocks.

The pancake tortoise prove to be good climbers as well. The pancake tortoise are also known as the  African pancake tortoise, crevice tortoise, Tornier’s tortoise, and the  Softshell tortoise. So, here are some fun facts on African Pancake tortoise for you to enjoy.

After checking these African Pancake tortoise facts, do read some more interesting information on Desert tortoise and Olive Ridley sea turtle.

Pancake Tortoise Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Pancake Tortoise?

The ancake tortoise is a flat, thin, and a flexible tortoise which are mostly found in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They dwell in rocky hills, and arid regions grow up to seven inches. They are faster than usual tortoise species and climb quickly as well.

What class of animal does a Pancake Tortoise belong to?

The pancake tortoise belongs to class, Reptilia (reptiles); that is the group of cold blooded animals whose skin is covered by epidermal scales or executes and are named after their creeping or crawling mode of locomotion.

How many pancake tortoises are there in the world?

There are no official records of how many pancake tortoises there are in the wild. However, the evidence shows that their population is under steep decline across Tanzania and Kenya.

Where does a pancake tortoise live?

The pancake tortoise is native to regions of Kenya, South Eastern Africa and northern and eastern Tanzania.  An introduced population of pancake tortoise is also found in Zimbabwe.

What is a pancake tortoise's habitat?

In the wilderness, the pancake tortoise are known to inhabit the arid savanna's and thorny scrublands, the rocky outcrops called kopjes, small hills of the crystalline basement in the low altitude dry savanna and the isolated colonies. The pancake tortoises are also found in semi arid deserts with scarce vegetation.

The habitats of pancake tortoise generally lies 30-1,800 m (100-6,000 ft) above sea level. Due to the increasing threat the wild populations of the Pancake tortoise are facing, they are now being captive bred in European zoos.

Who do pancake tortoises live with?

Pancake tortoises generally prefer living in typically isolated colonies.  However, a number of pancake tortoise are known to share the same hillside rocky outcrops, and in fact, sometimes they share the very same crevice. Pancake tortoises are rarely found to be venturing far away from their rocky homes.

How long does a pancake tortoise live?

The average life span of pancake tortoises is about 35 years in captivity and 25 years in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

The pancake tortoises are observed to exhibit varying reproductive behavior. They can be polygynandrous or polygynous.

In the wilderness, the breeding season lasts between January and February. However in the case of captive pancake tortoises, (at zoos or as pets) this varies, and the tortoises may breed year-round. There is competition between the males, in order to seek out female attention for mating.

The process of nesting takes place from July to August, during which the females lay only one egg at a time, however , she is capable of laying several eggs during the entire cycle of one mating season.

The egg is about two inches in length and is laid in a nest cavity or holes that the female built in the loose sandy soil.

After four to eight weeks, they may lay another egg and in some cases, yet another.

Eggs incubate at temperatures of 30 degree Celsius. In case of captive tortoises, incubation period spans over four to six months.

The hatchlings are quite tiny, merely 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) long and are independent immediately after they hatch.

What is their conservation status?

The pancake tortoise is enlisted as a Critically Endangered (CR) species on the IUCN Red List. Critically Endangered species are the ones facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.  They are also listed on CITES Appendix II. Their wild populations are being depleted very quickly as their habitat is being destroyed by human activities.

Pancake Tortoise Fun facts

What do pancake tortoises look like?

The pancake tortoise are extremely different from that of a usual tortoise family. These organisms are recognized by their flexible, thin, flat shell, which is again a rare feature for tortoises.

The shell in pancake tortoises  measures approximately 17.8 centimeters (7 inches) in length. Adapting to this unique attribute, when faced with predators, pancake tortoises choose to quickly flee from danger, instead of withdrawing back into their shell for protection.

Additionally, because of their flexible shells, they easily crawl into rock crevices and narrow hideouts.

They possess a brown carapace or top shell, adorned with varying patterns of dark radiating lines and vibrant yellow markings  on each shell plate. This trait helps the pancake tortoise in camouflaging themselves perfectly in the wild.

The distinction between the  males and females pancake tortoise can be made on the basis of  their size and length of their tails. The males generally smaller in size but have longer and bigger tails as compared to their female counterparts.

Pancake Tortoise climbing on a rock

How cute are they?

The pancake tortoises are cute animals to behold. Due to their calm and docile temperament they are quite endearing.

How do they communicate?

Pancake tortoise communicate with other tortoise using vocal, visual clues, and a range of smells. They can also communicate via touching or bumping into each other.

How big is a pancake tortoise?

The pancake tortoise has an average length of about six to seven inches (15-17.7 cm).

How fast can a pancake tortoise move?

The pancake tortoise moves with an average speed of about 8 km/h.

How much does a pancake tortoise weigh?

The pancake tortoise has an average weight of about 1 lb (453 grams).

What are their male and female names of the species?

As the pancake tortoise is a tortoise, belonging to the species of Malacochersus tornieri, a male  pancake tortoise is referred to as male  pancake tortoise while females are referred to as female  pancake tortoise.

What would you call a baby Pancake Tortoise?

The progeny of pancake tortoise are referred to as baby pancake tortoise, juvenile or progeny pancake tortoise. The babies are around one inch long when they hatch and have a domed shell like other tortoise. But as they grow, the shell flattes.

What do they eat?

The pancake tortoises are herbivores; that is, animals that only eat grass and plants. Therefore,  pancake tortoises consume dried ferns and grasses. The  Pancake tortoises in captivity or pets  feed on greens, vegetables and fresh-cut grass.

Do they bite?

Yes, pancake tortoises do bite. Though otherwise docile and peaceful the pancake tortoise with the strength of their beaks are known to bite each other, other animals as well as humans when provoked continuously. However, these circumstances are rare as in general these are calm and gentle species.

Would they make a good pet?

Pancake tortoises make fine pets, they are innocently interesting and their small size is a plus point for those living in small and limited spaces. However, due to the decline in their population rates and low reproductive potential, the threat of over-collection for the pet trade has to be kept in check.

Did you know...

Adapting to the lightweight of their shells, the pancake tortoises are comparatively faster than those with thicker shells. Additionally, they can easily and quickly flip upright if they fall on their backs.

The top shell or carapace of baby pancake tortoises are domed shaped, similar to that of other tortoises. However, as they mature and reach adulthood their shell flatten, tuning in to the species' name.

While burrowing into the rocky crevice, a pancake tortoise plants their spiky legs solidly in the space, and is almost impossible to dislodge.

Due to their pliable plastron, initially, before the popularity of the name 'pancake tortoise', these animals were called the 'soft-shell' tortoise.

Caring For A Pancake Tortoise

Following needs to be taken into consideration during Pancake tortoise care are listed below

Housing: It is important to ensure that the pancake tortoise is provided with a minimum  area of 4 sq ft ( with consideration of two tortoises in one enclosure).

Temperature: The ambient temperature of the enclosure needs to be between 75-85 degree Fahrenheit. Besides that at any one end of the enclosure basking spot of about 95-100 degree Fahrenheit needs to be provided.

Feeding: Since they are herbivorous organisms, surviving on plants; leafy vegetables, grass and flower are excellent options for a nutritious and healthy diet.

Humidity: As these are organisms of an arid landscape, it is recommended to provide them with a weekly soaking of approximately 15-20 minutes.

The Endangered Pancake Tortoise

The pancake tortoise are facing a serious threat to extinction due to a number of reasons, such as these listed below

Due to their unique characteristics and peculiar adaptations, the pancake tortoises are quite a sought after animal for the pet trade, making them highly vulnerable to extinction.

The continuous habit loss due to human intervention is one of the major issues of concern for these docile organisms.

Pancake tortoises are preyed upon by mongooses, wild dogs, and humans.

Due to their low reproductive potential, the declining population is hard to revive.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including sand lizard facts, or bog turtle.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our pancake tortoise coloring pages.

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Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

Oluwatosin Michael picture

Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

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