There are two subspecies :

Geochhelone Pardalis Pardalis – this is less colourful and slightly flatter.

Geochelone Pardalis Babcocki – this is more colourful and more highly domed.


Natural Areas

Leopard Tortoises are native to Africa which can be found in Ethipia, Natal, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The areas where they are found is usually a semi- arid area which has both thorny and a grassland habitat.


Sizes and weights

The Leopard tortoise is the 4th largest tortoise in the world but the 2nd largest in Africa. They can live up to 100 years and more so you need to consider this when obtaining one. Leopards are relatively hardy if given the correct husbandry.

They can reach a length of 60cms and can weigh up to 45kg in the wild, but in captivity they are more likely to reach about 40cms and weigh 15-20kg, which is still very large.

Sexual maturity in the wild is usually 12-15yrs but in captivity it can be 7-9yrs for the females. Males are usually 5-7yrs in captivity. It comes down to size usually.

The female lays between 6-15 eggs and can have 3 clutches in a season. This does mean that they need a laying area ready for them.


Distinguishing Features

These are very strong tortoises and this needs to be thought about before getting one and ensure that all areas are prepared for this.

Sexing can be done when about 4+ years old, the Male has a longer and thicker tail than the female. The male may also be getting a slightly concave plastron.

If you look at the notch under the tail, the males have a V shaped cut out and the females have a U shaped cut.


 Housing and Temps

These tortoises do not hibernate and need to be kept at the correct temperatures all the year round. This means that they are expensive to look after and need a large suitable area all year round. They will want to graze even in the winter.

 An average sized indoor area for 3 adults should be around 2mtrs x 2mtrs with an outdoor area of around 7mtr x 4mtr, but bigger is better.

The ideal substrate for the floor that I use is readi-grass. This is a good dry product that absorbs the heat which helps in keeping the area warm. They do not do well with humidity so their area needs to be kept clean and dry. They do pass an awful lot of faeces when they go so you need to clear this daily.


I also insulate the shed as much as possible even the ceiling. If you are paying for all this heat you need to keep it in.

The indoor area also needs to have a door out to the outdoor area so that the tortoise can lead it own life.





The basking temperature in the indoor area need to be 30C on the floor, this means that the tortoise can bask and get to the correct temperatures. The background temperature needs to be around 24C during the day and around 20C at night but no lower than 16C. There are various ways of providing this heat (see page 4 )

Leopard tortoises do not hibernate so you might have to provide them with full spectrum UVB during the winter months if you cannot get your tortoise outside.

Although they do not like high humidity, Leopards do drink a lot and mine love to soak, so you do need to provide water so that they can drink fresh water daily and also allow them to have a soak when they want. (see page 4 ) They do not though so you need to ensure this area is safe.


Although your Leopard will want grasses and weedy areas to graze they will also love an area that is 50 topsoil / 50 playpit sand with shrubs to bask in the sun and to hide in the shade. Make the area as interesting as possible.

You also need to ensure that the fencing around the area is solid and escape proof. I have 2ft fencing made for me by a local person and it works.




If you have a young leopard tortoise in a tortoise table then you do need to use 50 topsoil / 50 playpit sand as the substrate with readi-grass.



Leopards are herbivores and they need to have a diet that is 70-75% fibre content. They usually obtain this through grazing but obviously in the winter you may need to supplement this. The best way of doing this is to give them pre alpin which I find that leopard tortoises love to eat. I also give them this in the summer a few times a week.


Leopard tortoises do not need fruit and they do not need protein, although you will find a little protein in some foods.


One thing that you must be aware of is that they will eat poisonous plants that are brightly coloured eg azaleas. So remove them to be safe.


To provide them with a high 75% fibre diet you can provide them with the following grasses/hays:- Bermuda, Buffalo, Timothy and Readi-grass.


With a selection of the following:- Blossoms, Opuntia, Clover, Mulberry leaves, Grape leaves, Dandelion, Endive, Plantain, Chickweed, Sowthistle, Chicory, Tradescantia, Echeveria, Abutilon, Kalanchoe, Mimula, Petunia, Viola, Barbarea verna, Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, Agave, Lavateria, Radicchio, Cucumber, Romaine, Nasturtium, Mallows. (full list of suitable foods are on a serperate page but ensure that 75% is fibre as above)


You must ensure that all foods are free from any pesticides and chemicals. If you are not sure then do not use it. Shop bought plants must be left for 3 weeks to ensure removal of chemicals.



Leopard do require a large amount of calcium carbonate and this should be provided on a daily basis (see page ) especially when they are young and growing.


They also need to have the addition of vitamins and I use nutrobal which is suitable for all tortoises. For youngsters give a small pinch every other day and for adults a good pinch twice week. If you are giving them a varied diet this will be enough.



Please note

Leopard tortoises must be wormed regularly and need to be wormed. See under illnesses for information re worming.