Leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) is a one-of-kind pet to own but pretty challenging to maintain. Aside from a wide backyard, you must be pretty skilled and loaded in the pocket to have a leopard tortoise as a pet. So before getting one from an exotic pet shop, make sure you know what you’re bargaining for – get to know the slow reptile first from head to tail.
Do Leopard Tortoise Make Good Pet?
A leopard tortoise is slow, and it seemingly lacks emotion toward you, unlike your furry best friend. But what it lacks in speed it more than compensates with cuteness factor with its patterned yellow and black carapace coloration and funny antics. Almost all leopard tortoise owners loved their reptile when they’re babies and still very much in love with them when they’re fully grown and even lazier. That said, you should know that this tortoise species grow big, up to 16-18 inches long and 18-20 kilograms in weight. It can easily outlive you too, having a lifespan of 100 years! So make sure you’re prepared for these eventualities by making arrangements for your tortoise in advance.
Leopard Tortoise Habitat
Leopard Tortoise originates from tropical Africa; they need neither too hot nor too cold temperature to live happy and healthy. They also would like to graze on the backyard and nibble on your turf without discriminating against your flowers, so this should be considered when constructing an outdoor tortoise pen. If you live in colder climate where the wind never gets hotter than 27 degrees Celsius, be prepared to provide a nice indoor enclosure for your pet. You can use a full spectrum UV light to warm your docile best friend to make it the most active it can get. They thrive well in daylight temperature of no more than 32 degrees and nighttime temperature of no less than 21 degrees Celsius. For a single adult leopard tortoise, a 4 by 8 feet enclosure should be the minimum size, although it wouldn’t mind roaming your entire yard if the sun is up and shining.
Leopard Tortoise Diet
In the wild, leopard tortoises are mainly grazers of green grass, flowers, and foliage. If you have orchard grass or hay, Bermuda grass, or Timothy grass, then it’s a delight just watching your tortoise nibble the grass on the ground. If grazing is not available though, the tortoise can do with hay and high fiber greens: grape leaves, dandelions, clover, endives, cactus hives to name a few. Don’t give leopard tortoise spinach; lettuce, squash, carrots, broccoli cabbage, or kale can be given in very small amounts if at all. Indoor tortoise should also receive vitamin D3 supplement, and calcium supplement should be given regardless of where your tortoise live.
Caring for Leopard Tortoise
Although tortoises are solitary animals, they don’t mind some companionship especially the adults. More so for a pet leopard tortoise, it gets too attached to humans for food and care that it acquires some fondness to its owners. As a baby, try to hold the tortoise on your palm while feeding to socialize the reptile; when it gets old, it would even look for your companionship and care. Never use a brush to clean its carapace (the back shell) and its plastron (the under shell); instead, use a soft damp cotton cloth to gently remove some dirt that could accumulate. It wouldn’t mind an occasional warm water bath too, and it’s a good idea to put shallow water pool in its pen if the space allows it.
As you can see, having a pet tortoise has its own challenges and its own rewards. If you’re keen on getting one, start with one healthy baby leopard tortoise that you can raise to adulthood. Don’t get two if you’re not too sure about your space and the challenges of owning the reptile as a pet.