To many it may not seem such a big deal but to everyone here on UmPhafa it is an absolutely fantastic sighting…a tortoise! Spotted by one of our rangers it is the first time this reptile has been seen on the reserve for many years. Some local farmers stated that they had never seen one their whole lives whilst living in this area.

Although very abundant throughout South Africa, due to our high elevation starting at just under 1000m our reserve is not really the ideal habit for tortoises. Although they can occur in higher regions. Historically in this particular area that is not the case. 

The tortoise that was spotted on UmPhafa is a Leopard Tortoise. Aptly named due to its leopard like markings on its carapace (shell). They are the fourth largest tortoise in the world. Adults weigh on average up to 18-20kg but some specimens have been known to reach up to 50kg.

Their diet includes a wide variety of fruits, succulent plants and grass shoots. They are also know to gnaw on bones, especially animals which eat bones such as Hyena. Tortoises require a large amount of calcium in their diet to assist with shell development and females require calcium for egg development during the breeding season.

They can live for up to 80 years. They are not endangered here in South Africa but are often used in traditional medicine which could have a long term affect on their numbers. 

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