NOTE: These eggs hatched and the babies emerged from the ground on August 23rd, 2000 at 11:44PM.
These eggs sat for 465 days and 10 hours in the ground before emerging on a rainy night.

Leopard Tortoise Egg Laying Series

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The Tortoise Egg Laying Series - Page 1

     On May 16, 1999 one of our South African Leopard Tortoises began digging a nest. We assign letter codes to our adults and this is "I" but we call her Isabell. This nesting took approximately 3 hours and eventually contained 9 eggs which is typical for South African Leopard Tortoises. We expect to see these eggs hatch in the fall of the year 2000. We leave all of our eggs in the ground to incubate. It will often take a year and a half or more for a clutch of eggs to hatch. As you can see Isabell has dug this nest in the grass. Amazingly it will not be a problem for the babies to dig their way out right through the bermuda grass turf which will cover their nest.
     Tortoises typically will choose the same basic location for their nests. Isabell likes to lay in the grass. Lydia typically prefers an area in dirt. The area that she chooses is only about 5 feet by 3 feet. If she is not in that pen when she is ready to lay she will pace the fence between her and her nest area until we put her in that pen.

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Leopard Tortoise Digging Nest Leopard Tortoise Digging Nest

     When a tortoise nears laying time she will begin to wander looking for a suitable site. Often she will smell the ground and dig test holes. We can always tell when our tortoises are digging test holes because they are dry. When she is digging the actual nest she will urinate on the ground as she is digging to soften the ground. Tortoises will urinate so much that they turn the ground into mud as they dig. This mud is obvious on these photos on either side of the hole.
     Tortoises will alternate digging with their hind legs. While they are digging they will scrape their toenails across the ground and then, with the sole of their feet facing up like a scoop, move their foot outside the hole and dump the dirt. This action can be clearly seen in these photos. This style of digging will continue until the female cannot reach any further. The end result is a hole that is deeper than you might expect. Our females dig up to about 8" deep. Tortoise nests are wider at the bottom than the top.

Leopard Tortoise Claw Position When Digging Leopard Tortoise Claw Position When Digging

     It is easy to see in this photo how Isabell is holding her foot to scoop dirt out of the hole. While a tortoise is digging she will be almost as if she were in a trance due to the effects of the hormones that are making her dig.

This page last updated August 28, 2000

Exotic Enterprises - Tucson, Arizona

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