Geometric Tortoise Preserve

The diminutive Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus) is one of the world's most beautiful chelonians with its domed carapace and stunning egg-yolk and black radiating pattern. It is the Fabergé Egg of the tortoise world. Fully grown, it reaches only five to six inches.

In South Africa, the Turtle Conservancy, along with its partner organizations, has purchased over 1,000 acres of the last remaining habitat for this critically endangered tortoise, which we are calling the Geometric Tortoise Preserve. We need to preserve this critical habitat to save this beautiful tortoise from extinction.


Major Threats

This tortoise is a conservation priority for the Turtle Conservancy. It is currently struggling to survive in its rapidly diminishing shrubland ecosystem located in the southwestern corner of the Western Cape Province. Geometric Tortoises have lost more than 90 percent of their natural habitat, primarily to conversion of the unique native vegetation to intensive agriculture (vineyards, fruit orchards, and wheat fields). Since a devastating wildfire destroyed hundreds of animals at a farm in the region in April 2015, there may now be fewer than 1,000 tortoises remaining in the wild.

About this Program

Our new property has a substantial number of Geometric Tortoises, possibly several hundred, and all size classes are represented, indicating a thriving population. Our property is adjacent to other privately owned farmland that harbors the last remaining significant population of Geometric Tortoises. CapeNature, the South African government’s conservation agency, places this area in the highest category of concern. We are trying to raise funds to purchase these adjacent parcels.

As a bonus, the property is also home to two more protected tortoises: Bowsprit (Chersina angulata) and Parrot-beaked (Homopus areolatus) Tortoises. Additionally, several species of endangered plants are present at the site.

The Turtle Conservancy’s goal is to work with surrounding land owners to broaden effective tortoise conservation management efforts in the entire ecosystem, thus providing uniform protection not only of the tortoises but of all biodiversity in the area.