Pardalis Babcocki also known as the more common Leopard Tortoise is the most common species of leopard tortoise. The leopard tortoise Stigmochelys (= Geochelone) pardalis is unmistakable due to its distinctive pattern and unique body form. Its shell is relatively highly domed with a height greater than half its length as a general rule. The scutes on the carapace or upper shell may be pyramidal or slightly raised in height on animals from the wild. The colour and pattern give the tortoise its name, being straw yellow with splashes of jet black evenly dispersed over the shell, quite reminiscent of a leopard cat (Fig. 1). Adult tortoises can obtain a size of over 40kg but are more typically in the range of 10 to 15kg when full-grown (Branch, 1988), with a length in the range of 40 to 50cm.
At present only one species of leopard tortoise is recognized (Boycott & Bourquin, 2000). Two subspecies, Geochelone pardalis pardalis and Geochelone pardalis babcocki, have been widely recognized in the past (Loveridge & Williams, 1957) with the most distinguishing difference between the two being the shell pattern of the juveniles. Juvenile G. p. pardalis is recognized by multiple spots on the centre of each individual carapace scute and G. P. babcocki will vary from having no spots, to one spot, to one spot attached to a scute border. A few other characteristics such as size of adults and shell shape have also been mentioned, but are too inconsistent, due to the great range and overlap of the different populations, for these characteristics to be used for any definite identification purposes. So, at least for now, it makes things simpler not to recognize subspecies of the leopard tortoise.