Tortoise (Pancake)

Malacochersus tornieri

IUCN Red List status: Critically Endangered

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Critically Endangered


Where they live

Across Kenya and Tanzania


Mountains, savannah, grassland


Up to 18 cm long


1 pound (453g)


Up to 35 years in captivity


Habitat loss, pet trade

Did you know...

  • Unlike other tortoises, pancake tortoises run when they get scared. They are known as ‘sprinters and hiders’ The shell of a pancake tortoise is flexible. This helps them to be light and fast They puff themselves up to wedge into gaps in rocks so they can’t be pulled out

More about tortoises...

The pancake tortoise has an unusually thin, flat and flexible shell helping to make them the fastest tortoise. The shell actually has many holes in it to make it lightweight and agile. Instead of using in its shell for protection, the pancake tortoise is able to flee and crawls into narrow rock crevices.

Pancake tortoises are most active in the morning and early evening. They only surface from rocky crevices for an hour or so at a time. They will feed on dry grasses and most other vegetation, including fallen fruit

In the wild pancake tortoises are preyed upon by mongoose, wild dogs and humans. One of the main threat to this species is the illegal pet trade, as their unusual appearance makes them highly sought after. Fortunately, trade in pancake tortoises is now restricted.

How you can help...