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5 Surprising Tortoise Facts

5 Surprising Tortoise Facts



  1. South Africa has 5 species of tortoises, and several sub-species – a higher diversity than anywhere in the world.
  2. Palaeontologists think tortoises first evolved in the Karoo Basin. One of the first tortoise ‘ancestors’ was a bradysaurus that lived 265 million years ago. It was as large as the VW beetle.
  3. Tortoises are often called ‘padlopers’ (literally translated as ‘roadwalkers’) for their habit of doing exactly this. 
  4. Leopard tortoises are the largest tortoises in South Africa. Adults weigh about 20kg.
  5. There was a giant leopard tortoise called DomKrag who lived in the Addo Elephant National Park that weighed 43kg. He got his name from walking under cars and lifting them up. He died in 1976, after he fell into an aardvark hole, but you can still see his shell at the park, and a dam is named after him.

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