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For sure tortoises and terrapins are less feared than other reptiles. The carapax protects them against a good number of enemies since they can’t break their “house” easily. Tortoises (living on land) are mainly vegetarians, while terrapins (living in lakes, marshes and puddles) are mainly carnivorous.

Class reptiles (Reptilia), sub class primitive reptiles having no opening in the temporal region of the skull (Anapsida),
Order turtles, terrapins, tortoises (Testudines), Sub order Hidden-necked turtles (Cryptodira)



On almost every safari we find Leopard tortoises (Geochelone pardalis). In drier and hotter areas they grow bigger and become brighter when they grow old than in colder areas. Females are bigger than males. The female on the picture with Elvira weighs about 25 kg.

Below young leopard tortoises  (Photo Charly Grimm)








Speke’s hinged tortoises (Kinyxis spekii) are found in Southeast Kenya and Northern Tanzania. A hinge in the upper carapax allows closing it to make it more difficult for predators to eat it. They are diurnal but can best be met in the morning and later afternoon hours.



Pancake tortoises (Malacochersus tornieri) are endemic to Kenya and Tanzania. The body is broad, flat and flexible, due to the thin, weak carapace bones. When inactive they hide in exfoliation cracks, rock fissures and under large boulders. If threatened they breath in and the soft carapace adjust to the rock in addition they hold themselves with their feet. Fixed like this they are hard to be pulled out. But still it is possible since they are sought-after for trade. Additionally their habitats and hiding places are getting destroyed. Therefore they became the status vulnerable and are listed with CITES, Appendix II.  They feed on succulents, herbs, flowers and beetles. 







Sub order side-necked turtles (Pleurodira),
Family Afro-american side-necked turtles ( Pelomedusidae)
Serrated hinged terrapin (Pelusios sinuatus) is
a large terrapin living in rivers and lakes.

Helmeted terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa) is often to be found in standing water.Mostly you only have the chance to get a glimpse on it before it jumps into the water. They walk over land to find water, often just seasonal puddles. 



Nile soft shelled turtle

Nile or African Soft-shelled Turtle (Trionyx triunguis). Status is vulnerable. Found in Lakes and rivers - Turkana, Albert and White Nile. It readily  bites when handled. Picture taken at National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi

Family: Triochydae