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Pancake tortoise

Malacochersus tornieri

The pancake tortoise is different from other tortoises. As its name suggested, this tortoise’s shell is thin, soft and flexible and it has fewer, lighter bones.

It is probably the fastest moving tortoise because it is so light and has slender, supple legs and curved, pointed toenails. Pancake tortoises can be up to 18 centimetres long.

It is also an expert climber, scaling near vertical surfaces. The flexible shell allows it to wedge tightly into cracks in rocks, so predators cannot pull it out.

This species is managed under an ESB and is listed under Appendix II of CITES.

You can see our pancake tortoise in the zoo’s Reptile House.

IUCN red list status

The IUCN status of the pancake tortoise is critically endangered.

The IUCN status of the pancake tortoise is critically endangered.

For more info on classifications visit

  Fun fact An expert climber who can scale near-vertical surfaces

Animal class


Conservation status

At high risk of extinction in the wild. It is threatened by continued habitat loss and the pet trade.


Mountain – found in dry areas with small hills and rocky outcrops in Kenya and Tanzania.


Wild population numbers are unknown, but the species is believed to be in steep decline.


Herbivore – eats dry grasses, wild flowers and other vegetation.