Speckled Dwarf Tortoise is the smallest tortoise in the world.

It is mainly native to the region of Little Namaqualand, and arid region in the west of South Africa. These species are endangered and uncommon in captivity.

Speckled Tortoise
One of the smallest reptile in the world


Some facts and information

  • Family: Testudinidae
  • Genus: Chersoibius
  • Size: 2.4 to 3.9 in (6-10 cm)
  • Color: Goldish Beige with black spots and outlines on shell
  • Binomial Name: Chersobius signatus / Homopus signatus
  • Other Names: Speckled Padloper, Speckled Cape

The binomial name of the speckled cape tortoise is Chersobius signatus. However, it is also alternatively referred to as the Homopus signatus. This is because the speckled cape tortoise used to belong to the genus Homopus but has since been moved to the genus Chersobius. The speckled cape tortoise belongs to the family Testudinidae, which include all tortoises.


The species also belongs to the genus Chersobius, which contains 3 tortoises. The tortoises in this genus are called padlopers which is Afrikaans for ‘path walkers’ as they are known to create pathways. The other two are the Boulenger’s cape tortoise and the Berger’s cape tortoise.

This tortoise has a straight carapace length of just 2.4 to 3.9 inches. The females are bigger and can reach carapace lengths of almost 3.9 inches, while the smaller males reach carapace lengths of just 2.4 to 3.1 inches.

Speckled Dwarf Tortoise
Smallest tortoise in the world


The males have a more concave plastron as compared to the females. These tortoises have brown carapace with is dotted with many black spots thus their name – speckled tortoise. The carapace of this species is flattened and has serrated edges.

The populations of the Chersobius s. are limited to 3 areas – one within Namibia, one within South Africa and one in the border region between these two countries.



The species are herbivores and feed exclusively on plant material such as chicory, endive, fleaworts (also known as plantains), dandelions and other plants from the genus Taraxacum.

You can complement their diet with soaked heucobs, agrobs, chopped hay, and other fiber-rich components. Their diet can be supplemented with nitrogen-rich plant material such as beans once every week. This is important especially during spring and winter.

Adult speckled tortoises need to be fed every other day, while juveniles need to be fed daily.

Because they are hardly active during the warmer parts of summer and the colder parts of winter, they tend to eat less (usually nothing). However, it is important to still provide them with food, as they may still eat every now and then.

Also, it is important to you feed them using a feeding dish, or a surface without soil. This ensures they don’t ingest soil with can be fatal and even lead to death.

The diet also needs to be supplemented with vitamins and calcium additive designed for tortoises. Lastly, make sure to provide them with drinkable water.



These tiny tortoises don’t require a lot of room to be comfortable. A single adult of this species can comfortably live in a 5.5 sq. foot (0.5 sq. meter) terrarium. An 11 sq. foot (1 sq. meter) terrarium should be large enough for three adults.

Compacted sandy loam makes the best substrate for an enclosure. Since it is important that the enclosure imitates their natural habitat, you can use rocks, plants, and wood stumps to decorate the enclosure. To create a stress-free and comfortable environment, the terrarium must have several retreats.

If you want to breed these tortoises, the substrate of the female’s enclosure should be about 4 to 8 inches (10 cm) deep. This will allow them to dig a shallow nest for their eggs.

Young speckled cape tortoises require less space. Three hatchlings can live comfortable in a 1.6 sq foot (0.15 sq. meter) enclosure. As with the adult terrariums, juvenile terrariums must have a compact sandy loam substrate as well as places to hide.

Juveniles should be sprayed with water three times a week. The enclosures also need to be sprayed every now and then to keep humidity levels high.

It is important that you provide the terrariums with adequate lighting. The lights need to mimic the intense sunlight of their natural habitat.

Therefore, high-intensity lighting is the best. UVB lights also needs to be present. This ensures that the tortoises effectively synthesize vitamin D.

Since these tortoises need to bask, basking light must be provided. The temperature of the basking spots needs to be 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius).

The day temperature for the rest of the enclosure must be around 88 degrees fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) in the summer and 71 degrees fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) in the winter. Night temperatures can be lower but not below 32 degrees fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius).



Very little is known of the mating habits of the Chersobius s. However, it is likely that mating occurs in spring (August through October) when females are gravid. More research is necessary to properly identify the mating seasons of this species.

Females usually lay 1 clutch during nesting season. While the sex of hatchlings is most likely determined by incubation temperatures, these temperatures are not known. Incubation takes 100 to 200 days.


Speckled Tortoise Endangerment

These tortoises are classified as endangered on the IUCN red list and their populations in the wild are rapidly decreasing. As such, this species is protected by South African and Namibian laws and are included in the CITES Appendix II.

The trade of wild speckled cape tortoises is illegal, and the sale of captive specimens has to be registered in studbooks. Except for extreme exception, the trade and ownership of this tortoise is prohibited.

Sanjana Pal

Content Writer (Erakina by RTMN)


Tags: Tortoise

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