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Leopard Tortoise

Ashley Bates

If you’re looking to bring home a laidback reptile with a fancy fresh shell, the leopard tortoise might have caught your eye. Before you get too excited, we have to mention that these tortoises get massive, so they might not work in every living situation.

However, if you have the time and space, you can make quite an exciting setup for your pal. These personable creatures will form long-lasting bonds with their owners—and sometimes outlive them, too. Let’s find out more about them!

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Quick Facts about Leopard Tortoise

Species Name: Stigmochelys pardalis
Family: Tortoise
Care Level: Experienced
Temperature: 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit
Temperament: Docile, social
Color Form: Yellow, black, brown
Lifespan: 80 to 100 years
Size: Up to 30 pounds
Diet: Herbivore
Minimum Tank Size: 6’ x 4’ x 1.5’
Tank Setup: Outdoor living
Compatibility: Experienced owners

Leopard Tortoise Overview

The breathtaking leopard tortoise is a giant reptile that inhabits Central and Southern Africa. You can find them plentifully in the wild, but they are also widespread in the pet trade industry.

These tortoises get very large, so having an outside enclosure is the absolute best thing for them. Some people won’t have the proper room to house these creatures, so it’s essential to know before committing to the purchase of one.

leopard tortoise walking on the road
Image Credit: Pixabay

How Much Does a Leopard Tortoise Cost?

Leopard tortoises can cost several thousand dollars, but they still aren’t cheap, even at the end of the scale.

Leopard tortoises can cost anywhere from $350 to $5,000 and beyond. It will greatly depend on the breeder, age, and quality of the tortoise.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Many owners would agree that your leopard tortoise will surprise you with its amazingly unique personality. They can be extraordinarily amiable and social, while others are calmer and more reserved. It just depends on the individual.

When put together, they tend to get along very well. However, some males might show aggression during mating season. It’s less typical of domesticated leopard tortoises.

Tortoises have no ears but use vibrations to navigate their surroundings. What they lack in hearing, they make up for with an incredible sense of smell. They benefit from grazing, so if you have ample space, they will gladly munch on grasses.

leopard tortoise on the grass
Image Credit: Pixabay

Appearance & Varieties

Leopard tortoises have thick shells that vary from yellow to black in color. Like their name implies, the markings on the outside resemble a wild leopard cat. Each unique design varies from tortoise to tortoise.

Unlike many other animals, female leopard tortoises are larger than their male counterparts. Females reach 30 pounds or more while males are roughly half that size.

Though only one leopard tortoise is recognized, it comes in two subspecies—the stigmochelys pardalis babcocki and the stigmochelys pardalis pardalis.

Adults are hard to tell apart, but hatchlings have a certain amount of black spots on their scute to help distinguish them.

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How to Take Care of Leopard Tortoise

Creating the proper space for your turtle to roam is the key to their happiness. When you keep a unique creature such as the leopard tortoise, you want to make sure their environment is completely safe and efficient.

Here are some care requirements that you will need when you own one of these gorgeous reptiles.

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Enclosure

When possible, it’s always best to keep the leopard tortoise outdoors. Due to their large size, having an indoor enclosure can be nearly impossible for most owners. They simply get too large, which is hard to accommodate.

But not to worry—securing an area for them won’t be as hard as you think. You simply need a warm, dry place away from excessive moisture and inclement weather.

For one leopard tortoise, the enclosure should be at least 6’ x 4 x 1.5. Your turtle is a hefty one, so you must make the barrier tortoise-proof. There can be no spots where it can push through.

leopard tortoise inside a tank
Image Credit: Pixabay

Substrate

You have a few options for the substrate. Many owners prefer a topsoil and sand mixture. You can also use grasses, hay, or cypress bark. They each work efficiently in the habitat.

If you allow your tortoise time to roam around outside, they will love the natural terrain. Just be sure that the conditions aren’t too wet or sloppy since they are sensitive to excess moisture.

Temperature

Your leopard turtle will require two temperatures in their cage—a warm and cool side. The warm side of the cage should be a basking area, providing temperatures up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool side of the enclosure should be between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you live in an area with cold winters, you will need to make a space for your tortoise to keep warm during these months. Since these creatures are so susceptible to respiratory infections, make sure there is no draft.

Lighting

For 12 hours per day, your tortoise should have exposure to light that mimics sunlight. At night, you can turn it off to set day/night cycles.

If your tortoise is outdoors, regular daytime and nighttime hours will suffice.

Do Leopard Tortoises Get Along with Other Pets?

Leopard turtles are docile creatures that get along and even form relationships with other pets. But there are two sides to this. While these reptiles love having a partner in crime, whether it be a dog, cat, or another creature, is it safe?

In most cases, it’s perfectly okay to have your tortoise around other pets. They are hardy with protected shells and sizable bodies. But while they can’t get injured easily, they may become stressed, scared, or wounded if another animal is too hyper or invasive. Make sure to supervise these interactions.

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What to Feed Your Leopard Tortoise

Leopard tortoises sure do love their greens! These herbivores can’t get enough of delicious leafy greens, hays, and weeds. They need lots of fiber in their daily diet, so allow generous portions.

Some favorites are:

  • Leafy greens
  • Succulents
  • Clover
  • Honeysuckle
  • Parsley
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrot
  • Kale
  • Dandelion

These animals also require additional supplements to keep them healthy, such as calcium. Always check with your veterinarian before allowing additives in their diet.

leopard tortoise on the dirt
Image Credit: Pixabay

Keeping Your Leopard Tortoise Healthy

Your leopard tortoises need proper care, including vetting. It is crucial to find an exotic veterinarian near you. These big guys need annual vet care along with any problems that may arise.

While these tortoises are generally healthy, they can run into a few health issues. Some of them include:

  • Respiratory disease
  • Constipation
  • Pneumonia
  • Parasites
  • Impaction

If you notice any behavioral or physical changes in your leopard tortoise, take them to the vet right away. Many issues can be resolved with proper treatment.

Breeding

If you plan to breed, you might want to know just how easy it is. While it does take time, resources, and patience—it is possible.

Tortoises reach sexual maturity between 6-8 years of age. So, if you’re thinking of breeding and your tortoise is still relatively young—you may have a while yet. Tortoises must be sexually active for an entire year until fertilization is possible.

If you have a male and female together, the process can occur naturally, but you have to incubate the fertilized eggs. You will need to incubate the eggs at 84 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 days.

On average, leopard tortoise females produce one to seven clutches per year.

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Are Leopard Tortoises Suitable For You?

Because of its massive size and maintenance requirements, the leopard tortoise won’t work for everyone. But if you can make the space, these can be extremely rewarding backyard buddies.

Remember that your tortoise needs the works—lots of space, proper living conditions, and an adequate diet. If you give them the right conditions, they may very well outlive you.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Ashley Bates

Ashley Bates is a freelance dog writer and pet enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Her mission is to create awareness, education, and entertainment about pets to prevent homelessness. Her specialties are cats and dogs.