Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Cousin: The Speckled Cape Tortoise

The Speckled Cape Tortoise, known locally as the speckled padloper, and internationally as the speckled cape tortoise, is the world's smallest tortoise. A member of the genus Homopus, it is endemic to South Africa and Southern Namibia.

Naturally restricted to a small area in Little Namaqualand, an arid region in the west of South Africa, here it normally lives on rocky outcrops, where it forages among the rocks for the tiny succulent plants it eats.

Males measure 2.5 to 3 inches, while the larger females measure up to almost 4 inches; they weigh about 3.5 – 6 oz. This species has a flattened shell with slightly serrated edges. The orange-brown shell is covered in hundreds of black spots. The males have a noticeably concave belly.

This tiny tortoise can be distinguished from the other Homopus species by its speckles, and by five toes on its forefeet, unlike many of its relatives, which have four toes, on all four feet.

The species is threatened by traffic on roads, habitat destruction and poaching for the pet trade. Many are taken from their natural habitat each year, and nearly all subsequently die as a result, as they do not readily adapt to typical captive diets and climatic change.

However,  their diet (while very varied) is not highly specialized, which would allow the species to adapt well to captivity, provided that proper attention is paid to temperature, dryness and a sufficiently varied diet.


  1. 5 toes? If one becomes an opposable thumb, watch out1

  2. You sure do come from a big family, Henry.