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Habitat- Grasslands to subtropics in Central Northeastern to Southern Africa make up the wide variety of the Leopard tortoises range. South Saharan Desert gets very warm during the day. Large variety of grassy pastures and mixtures of different soils like sands, decomposed granite, limestone, sandstone and very dry capping of earth is consistent in the land type. However these are not desert living species and humidity and ambient moisture keeps consistent with this species range of sub tropic The Leopard tortoise is somewhat similar to the Sulcata. Coming from the outskirt regions, it, however, does not burrow like the Sulcata. Its shell has a higher dome shape which anatomically allows its body to take more of the direct heat in these very warm grasslands by hiding very well camouflaged by its leopard pattern in bushes and shrubbery.
Conservation- Currently listed as CITES Appendix II threatened, but on the lower risk side. Same scenario as the Sulcata. Fairly common in northern, central, and southern regions of South Africa.
The leopard tortoise is the second largest tortoise native to Africa. Only the African spurred tortoise is larger. Two subspecies are generally recognized. Stigmochelys pardalis babcocki is the most common species in the pet trade. It has a large natural range resulting in geographic variations in size, color and temperature tolerance. Stigmochelys pardalis pardalis is from South Africa and Namibia. S. p. pardalis can be distinguished from S. p. babcocki as it is generally darker in color, may not be as high domed and generally grows larger.
Without knowing the origin of a leopard tortoise, it is difficult to distinguish adults of the two species due to the geographic variations of S. p. babcocki. Hatchling tortoises of each species are generally distinguished based on the number of dark spots on each scute. S. p. babcocki generally have one black dot or no dots, while S. p. pardalis generally have two black dots on each scute.
Adult leopard tortoises measure from 10 to 18 inches long depending on the geographic origin and subspecies of the tortoise. The South African subspecies, Stigmachelys pardalis pardalis, may grow to 24 inches and the giants from Ethiopia and Somalia may approach 30 inches. Females often grow larger than males, however depending on the origin of the specimen this may be reversed, or male and females may be of similar size. Due to wide geographic variations there are no set standards. Males may always be distinguished from females by their concaved plastron and larger tail.
Captive-bred leopard tortoises are generally available. Import of wild caught specimens into the United States was banned in 2000 due to concerns from a tick with heartwater disease found on wild specimens. Before the ban leopard tortoises were commonly imported, and many people currently breed leopard tortoises, however Stigmachelys pardalis pardalis is less common in collections than Stigmachelys pardalis babcocki.