Common name:Leopard tortoise
IUCN category:Least concern
CITES:INT - Appendix II
EU - Appendix B
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The leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) is a large and attractively marked tortoise found in the savannas of eastern and southern Africa, from Sudan to the southern Cape. It is the only member of the genus Stigmochelys.
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 nondescript brown or grey. The head and limbs are uniformly colored yellow, tan, or brown.
The leopard tortoise is the fourth largest species of tortoise in the world, with typical adults reaching 40 centimetres and weighing 13 kilograms. Adults tend to be larger in the northern and southern ends of their range, where typical specimens weigh up to 20 kilograms and an exceptionally large tortoise may reach 70 centimetres and weigh 40 kilograms.
This tortoise is a grazing species that favors semi-arid, thorny to grassland habitats. In both very hot and very cold weather they may dwell in abandoned fox, jackal, or aardvark holes. Leopard tortoises do not dig other than to make nests in which to lay eggs. Not surprisingly, given its propensity for grassland habitats, it grazes extensively upon mixed grasses. It also favors succulents and thistles.