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Critically Endangered Pancake Tortoise Hatches at Battersea Zoo

A critically endangered pancake tortoise has hatched at Battersea Park Zoo. The species is on the edge of extinction due to intense harvesting for the exotic pet trade, and habitat destruction.

This new hatchling is the second at the zoo in less than 12 months, offering hope for the species. Only four pancake tortoises have hatched in UK zoos over the past year.

The hatchling emerged after a 143-day incubation period, and experts are are now caring for it in a special nursery enclosure.

The zoo team incubated the egg, laid by an adult tortoise at the zoo, at 31.5 degrees Celsius, in the hope of producing a female hatchling, but the sex won’t be known for a few years.

Find out more about pancake tortoises below.

Photo credit: Battersea Park Zoo

Information about Pancake Tortoises

Pancake tortoises (Malacochersus tornieri) are unique and fascinating reptiles. Here are some key points about them:

Physical Characteristics

  • Shape: Unlike most tortoises, pancake tortoises have a flat, flexible shell. This allows them to squeeze into tight crevices.
  • Size: They are small, usually reaching about 6-7 inches in length.


  • Location: Native to East Africa, primarily found in Kenya and Tanzania.
  • Environment: They live in rocky outcrops and hillsides, where their flat shells help them hide from predators.


  • Agility: They are more agile than most tortoises, able to climb and move quickly.
  • Defense: Instead of retreating into their shells, they wedge themselves into crevices to avoid predators.


  • Eggs: Females lay 1-2 eggs per clutch, often in cracks or under rocks.
  • Incubation: The incubation period is long, around 4-6 months.

Conservation Status

  • Critically Endangered: Their population is declining due to the exotic pet trade and habitat destruction.
  • Protection Efforts: Breeding programs in zoos aim to increase their numbers and raise awareness.

Pancake tortoises are a remarkable species with unique adaptations, but they face significant threats in the wild. Conservation efforts are crucial for their survival.