This Lion Got So Hungry It Tried to Eat a Tortoise Shell

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Written by Hannah Crawford

Published: November 25, 2023

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Lioness (Panthera leo) walking in savannah in Serengeti national park, Tanzania
© Olha Solodenko/Shutterstock.com

No matter which animal a lion hunts down, it will have to go through tremendous work. They must stalk their prey, chase the prey, and then take the prey down. However difficult that might be, it’s nothing compared to trying to eat a tortoise and get through their thick shell. Don’t miss this video just above!

Tortoise Shell

The video posted at the top of this blog takes us to the Nairobi National Park. The Maasai Sightings YouTube page shared this video from the Kenya Wildlife Service. They share their explanation of tortoise shells from the video below. 


“Tortoises and turtles feel their shell very well because nerves lead back to their nervous system. They can feel their shells stroked, scratched, tapped, or touched. Tortoise and turtle shells are also sensitive enough to feel pain. The chelonian shell can recover from severe injuries, but the healing process is slow and may take several months to years depending on the original injury.” 

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Lion Hunting Tortoise in Africa

At the start of this video, we see that a lion has captured the sight of a tortoise roaming around. There is a small standoff where this lion checks out this tortoise. However, this tortoise has no hope of outrunning a lion. And so, as the lion gets closer, the tortoise reverts into his shell for his safety. 

The lion goes over and immediately tries to stick her head inside and pull this tortoise out. With every scratch and bite of this tortoiseshell, let’s not forget what the Maasai Sightings had to say in the section above. That tortoises can feel every touch on their shell.

At 1:55, a hungry second lion is coming to join this attempt to get this food. Not long after, a third lion joined the mix. This must be one hungry pride that they are all looking to get just a bite of this tortoise. However, the video ends with the commentators stating, “It’s doubtful that the lions will be able to pierce through the shell.” 

How Strong is a Tortoise Shell?

Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai) in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, US. Threatened vulnerable species in Nature Red List.

Tortoises are omnivores.

©IrinaK/Shutterstock.com

The tortoise (Testudinidae) has about 50 species that can be found worldwide. The size of a tortoise largely depends on its species, but they can weigh anywhere from 0.2 to 661 pounds

Tortoise shells are famous for withstanding about 1,000 pounds of pressure on its shell, according to The Aquarium Guide. Their shells have “59-61 bones covered by plates called scutes.” Making it extremely difficult for any animal to get through, including lions.

When browsing the internet, you will find some “experts” out there stating that only a starving lion will go after a tortoise; however, this is not the case. When researching what lions as carnivores eat, we consistently see that turtles and tortoises are regularly a part of a lion’s diet. 


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About the Author

Hannah Crawford is a writer at A-Z Animals where she focuses on reptiles, mammals, and locations in Africa. Hannah has been researching and writing about animals and various countries for over eight years. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Communication\Performance Studies from Pensacola Christian College, which she earned in 2015. Hannah is a resident in Florida, and enjoys theatre, poetry, and growing her fish tank.

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