Tortoises and Terrapins
There are two species of tortoise which occur in the Garden naturally; the mountain leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) and the hinged tortoise (Kinixys belliana).
The mountain leopard tortoise is the largest of the Southern African tortoises and may exceed 70cm in length. These larger specimens are at least 30 years old, possibly more. A young tortoise grows very quickly at first to gain the sort of size where it less vulnerable to predators. Subsequent growth is much slower. Sexual maturity is reached at about 15 years. Newly hatched tortoises have to dig their way out of their underground nests, often waiting until the rains have begun for the earth to be soft enough. The coloration and markings vary with age, but are predominately a yellowish background with irregular dark blotches.
The hinged tortoise is of a smaller size, up to 20 cm. As its name suggests it may be recognised by a joint across the shell in the hind quarter. This hinge allows enough movement for the tortoise to close the gap between the shell and base plate thereby protecting the hind section of the tortoise. These tortoises eat various plants, fruit, mushrooms and some invertebrates such as the giant land snail and the pill millipede. They may also eat carrion and like other tortoise species they will gnaw on bones to obtain calcium for the growth of their shells.
The Cape or marsh terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa) can often be seen from the birdhide, basking on the islands in the Sasol Dam. It is omnivorous and will feed on water-plants, frogs, fish and carrion. It has also been known to lie in wait for birds coming to the water's edge to drink and bathe.
Checklist of tortoises and terrapins
[Amphibians] [Arachnids] [Birds] [Mammals]