Meet Tom's Leopard Tortoises

Tom

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In August and September of 2010, an opportunity to get some South African leopard tortoises presented itself to me. I have been a fan of leopards since the early 90s, but two things kept me from getting more involved with them. First and foremost, I tried and failed many times to raise one even remotely smooth, even though I read every book, talked to every expert and followed all their advice. This frustrated me unbelievably. The other thing I didn't like about them was the shy personality that so many of them exhibited. Remember that I started keeping sulcatas at the same time, so just about anything compared to a sulcata is going to seem "shy". I can't remember when I first heard about the South African variety, but what I heard had always appealed to me. They grew larger, came from a cooler climate and supposedly had a more "sulcata-like" personality. I was fortunate enough to see them in the wild in 2005 and have wanted to get some ever since. Initially I found them difficult to find, expensive, and I didn't feel I could really trust the sources I was finding, given the large number of hybrids that were/are out in circulation. In early 2010, a friend/mentor of mine introduced me to a friend of his that had a breeding colony of the South Africans that he started as direct imports in 1990. He has maintained the integrity of this group over all these years. He also has three groups of location specific regular leopards too. I was able to buy directly from this breeder, but he only wanted to deal in wholesale lots. He has no interest in dealing with individual sales or the public. I was able to buy 36 of them from him. I ended up keeping 8 from that original 36 and sold the rest to other forum members here. You can see several of them here:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread-20528.html#

So here are my eight keepers, plus an unrelated ninth one named "#14", that I incubated myself for a friend. I started these guy with lots of humidity and hydration, but still in an open topped enclosure with a hot bulb. They have turned out pretty smooth, but they are still not perfect. My next group will be raised in a closed chamber and then we'll be able to compare. They are just over two years old now, and I find myself more and more fond of them every day. Even through they are much too small and young, I am already seeing breeding behavior. Their personalities are really starting to come out and their appearance brings a smile every time I look at them. Sometimes I just sit in a chair in the shade and watch these guys. Sometimes they just sit and watch me back. :) In many ways I think these are an ideal tortoise species. They get large and hardy. They are beautiful to look at. They live well outside, depending on your climate. They tend to have very outgoing, unafraid personalities. They don't dig or have the destructive tendencies of the sulcatas. Since they are grass eaters, they are pretty easy to feed. Their only real problem is their scarcity. I hope to start to remedy that in another few years. :D

I've included plastron shots, so we can play "guess the sex".
Here they are:


First is "#14" at 397 grams. He is around 8 months younger than the others. This is the one I hatched myself out of a friends unrelated South African leopards.
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This one is called "Split Scute", and weighs in at 1150 grams.
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Some of them don't have names yet. This one is 941 grams.
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1038 grams.
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1109 grams.
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1324 grams.
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1624 grams.
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1721 grams.
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This one was called "Big Momma" until HE flashed me and started trying to breed his siblings. This is the only one that I am 100% sure of the sex. He weighs 1757 grams.
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I hope you enjoyed them. I know I do.
 

Neal

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They look good...a lot better than some of mine. It frustrates me that my group already had a few months to become corrupted before I got them...but the keepers are doing OK, and their offspring will be as smooth as anything else I have raised.

I've found these SA leopards to be very difficult to sex. Yeah, they're still young, but even at a young age it's pretty easy to tell babcocki's apart generally. It does look like you have quite a few males at this point. All of mine are "looking female".

I like your idea of showing off your individual tortoises and the story behind it. I think I might have to copy you Tom.
 

wellington

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Beautiful leopards. I'm not good at sexing but I am going to try. You have some males and some females:p:) great pics and love the story behind it too. Thanks for Sharing. Always a good read:)
 

DeanS

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It looks to me as if #14 is the smoothest of all. Therefore, it stands to reason that ALL sulcata and leopard eggs should be turned over to Tom for (near) perfect results :p

AWESOME job, Tom!
 

DesertGrandma

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"They're not perfect" haha. They are about as close to perfect as anyone could get!! Fantastic, and it does look like you have some males to me too.


Oh, and I like your black fingernail polish :cool:
 

Team Gomberg

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I am so encouraged to see an updated picture of how yours look!

sometimes it is still so hard for me to believe my guy will ever get bigger :p but in time....
 

Tom

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Neal said:
I like your idea of showing off your individual tortoises and the story behind it. I think I might have to copy you Tom.

I wish you would. That would be a great thread. You have some new ones that I'm not familiar with. Love to see them.

I'm copying your method of babies outside all day every day, followed by a soak and overnight in a humid enclosure. :) I wanna try it out and see what it does with sulcatas.
 

Eweezyfosheezy

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They all look fantastic! Number 5 is my favorite!
This is what I think they are.
#1- Not really showing much sexual characteristics but I'll go with female for now.
#2- Female
#3- Female
#4- Female
#5- Male
#6- Female
#7- Male
#8- Male
#9- Male
Phew! That was a lot harder than when the tortoises are actually in hand. I just cannot wait until mine get this big.
 

mainey34

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Very nice. So Tom, I must ask. Out of all the tortoises you have right now including the hatchlings. Do you have a head count? I'm sure you have quite a few. And I'm sure it is very time consuming. About how much time do you spend on average, daily? May I ask? How do you do it? :)
 

Tom

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mainey34 said:
Very nice. So Tom, I must ask. Out of all the tortoises you have right now including the hatchlings. Do you have a head count? I'm sure you have quite a few. And I'm sure it is very time consuming. About how much time do you spend on average, daily? May I ask? How do you do it? :)

It's kinda hard to say. It's all variable and seasonal with all the babies. I have 6 adults, 2 sub-adults and two juveniles, but will soon be adding two more juveniles. I also have the 8 new "wild" hatched babies there. Everything is automated on timers and thermostats, so there is not a lot of daily work to do. Some days I spend a couple of hours cleaning, raking, doing waters, harvesting crops, etc... Other days I just drop food and walk away. The babies get soaked daily, but it only takes a minute to put them in the tub with some water and then two minutes to rinse them, put them away and dump the soak water. I run around and do other things while they are soaking. Then I have my 6 holdback experiment babies, 10 Sudan babies, and a variable amount of hatchlings coming and going, plus the nine leopards. It's probably around an hour a day for these guys. Many of these will go over the next few months.
 
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