Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus): What does it look like?
  • The beautiful Geometric Tortoise gets its name from the yellow star patterns on the dark brown background of its shell.
  • It is a small tortoise with a yellow neck and legs.











Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus): Why is it threatened?
  • The Endangered Geometric Tortoise is the rarest tortoise species in Africa. CapeNature estimates that fewer than 5 000 survive in nature.
  • The Geometric Tortoise lives only in Alluvium Fynbos and lowland Renosterveld. This tortoise is threatened because most of this habitat has been destroyed.
  • Camouflage and a strong shell protect the tortoise from its animal predators, but have not been able to protect it from people.
  • During the first half of the twentieth century, many Geometric Tortoises were caught and exported for the pet trade. Most of them died because the tortoise has a specialized diet and does not survive well in captivity.
  • Export was banned in 1951 but illegal smuggling continues.
  • Today Geometric Tortoises are found on a few nature reserves and farms in the Swartland, Breede River Valley and Ceres Valley.
Present|Original distribution









Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus): Cape Town's tortoises go extinct!
  • Geometric Tortoises used to survive between Strand and Gordonís Bay at Harmony Flats Nature Reserve. A provincial nature reserve was formed to protect the tortoises.
  • There are many reasons why this nature reserve failed to protect the tortoises.
    • A lot of development took place in the area in the late 1990s. This increased the pressure on this small nature reserve, which is completely surrounded by houses.
    • Local people were not consulted when the reserve was started, so they did not see the value of the reserve.
    • People kept damaging the fences and setting fire to the reserve. Most of the tortoises died in these fires.
    • The Province transferred the reserve to the municipality, but there were too few staff and too little money to manage the area properly.
  • Eventually, the last few tortoises were rescued and taken to Tygerberg Zoo where they hoped to breed them in captivity. Very soon after this, all the tortoises at the zoo were stolen!
  • Between 1997 and 2001, the Geometric Tortoise became locally extinct in Cape Town.






Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus): What can we do?
  • Itís too late to save the Geometric Tortoise in Cape Town, but you can help to save tortoises and other animals by not keeping wild animals as pets.
  • Since 1972 about ten conservation areas have been set up outside Cape Town to protect the tortoise. Some farmers are helping to protect the Geometric Tortoise by conserving the remaining Alluvium Fynbos and Renosterveld on their farms.







Click the buttons to find out more about threatened animals in Cape Town:
Cape Galaxias (Galaxias zebratus)
Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus)
Leopard Toad (Amietophrynus pantherinus)
Micro Frog (Microbatrachella capensis)
Common Opal Butterfly (Chrysoritis thysbe)