Interesting facts about leopard tortoises

The leopard tortoise is the fourth-largest tortoise in the world. Found from Eastern to South Africa, from Sudan to the Southern Cape. This tortoise favours semi-arid, thorny and grassland habitat. Adults reach 40-70 centimetres and weigh up to 20-40 kilograms. The name “leopard” derives from the markings on their carapace (shell). The carapace is high and domed with steep, almost vertical sides.  Juveniles and young adults are attractively marked with black blotches, spots or even dashes and stripes on a yellow background. In mature adults the markings tend to fade to a brown or grey. The head and limbs are uniformly coloured yellow or tan. Leopard tortoises are herbivores and their diet consists of a wide variety of plants including forbs, thistles, grasses, and succulents. They will sometimes gnaw on bones or even hyena faeces to obtain calcium which is necessary for bone development and their eggshells. Seeds will pass undigested through the gut, so the leopard tortoise plays a significant role in seed dispersal. They are normally active during the day but are less active during hot weather or during the winter (our dry season). The leopard tortoise reaches sexual maturity between 12 and 15 years. During the breeding season the males will fight, attempting to overturn their opponent so he is unable to continue the fight – as it may take hours before he can turn himself over again. They are commonly seen around just before rain and have been known to be able to cross deep water if needs be.