African Pancake Tortoise

Malacochersus tornieri


Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Pancake tortoises can be housed indoors or outdoors. An indoor enclosure can be a 40-gallon terrarium or larger. Enclosure size needs to be at least 4 square feet for up to two tortoises. Add 2 square feet for every additional tortoise.
  • Temperature, Humidity, & Lighting:
    • Temperature: Basking 100 F; cooler side of the enclosure can range from 70 to 75 degrees
    • Humidity:
    • Lighting: A fluorescent UVB bulb spanning the length of the enclosure takes care of the lighting needs. Provide a photoperiod of 12 hours of daylight.
  • Substrate: Substrates of bark or coconut bedding.
  • Provide hiding and climbing areas.

Diet Requirements

  • feed on a variety of fresh and dry grasses, and some fruit in the wild. In captivity they eat a variety of grasses, hay, greens (such as collard, turnip and mustard), along with dandelion, endive, squash, carrots, hibiscus leaves, and many other vegetables and leafy greens. They also eat several of the commercial diets, which can be used to supplement fresh food. Supplement all fresh food items with calcium and multivitamins.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


hot water bottle

Temperature Guidelines

  • Brandywine Zoo: During cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle set to one side of the cooler. Wrap bottle with newspaper for lizards or snakes traveling with the bottle loose, to make cleanups easier in the case of defecation while traveling.



  • Brandywine Zoo: reptiles travel in a Coleman style coolers that have been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). Small and medium sized snakes travel inside an inside-out, knotted pillowcase. Large snakes travel loose in the cooler that is also bungeed shut. For lizards, the cooler is lined with newspaper.
  • lg cooler sm cooler cooler

Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling


Potential Messaging

Acquisition Information

This species is managed by a studbook and Yellow SSP. Contact Program Leader Andre Daneault 

Comments from the Rating System

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Southern Kenya and northern and western Tanzania. Rocky hills and slopes with rocky outcrops in arid savanna and scrub areas at altitudes from 100 to 6,000 feet.

Physical Description

Adult shell length ranges from 6 to 7 inches long and about 1 inch tall

Life Cycle

At least 35 years and most likely much longer



Threats and Conservation Status

African pancake tortoises are found in southern Kenya and eastern Tanzania. They are currently listed as Vulnerable by IUCN and this is an Appendix II species on CITES. The biggest threats facing this species at this time are habitat destruction and over-harvesting for the pet trade.

Did you know…




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • African Pancake Tortoise SSP/Studbook