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African Spurred Tortoise

Alternative Name
Sulcata Tortoise, Spurred Tortoise, Spur Thigh Tortoise Scientific Name: Geochelone sulcata

Basic Info

Sulcata Tortoises are very large animals. They can weigh over 200 pounds and can reach up to 36 inches in length. Like other tortoises, they are very long lived


Because the Sulcata Tortoise can grow to such a large size (200 pounds) and can dig burrows as deep as 20 or more feet, they may be much more difficult to care for. They can be quite destructive with their burrowing habits, and they are often seen in rescues because many people are not prepared for their great size or behavior patterns. For this reason they are classified as relatively difficult, though with this aside they are average in terms of feeding and general health care. But prospective owners should be aware of the fact that they grow fast, live a very long time and dig a lot. Some people refer to the damage done by these large tortoises as "converting their yards into a Moon-Scape." Sulcata Tortoises should be examined by a reptile veterinarian before being brought into the home. They should be checked for all parasites, especially Giardia and Hexamita Parva, which are very common among wild-caught tortoises. African Spurred Tortoises should be provided with temperatures of 80 - 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, with plenty of shade so they can cool down when necessary. Nighttime temperatures should be cooler than daytime, but should not drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. While Sulcata Tortoises can live quite comfortably outdoors, if they are to live in an overly humid environment or when the temperatures outdoors fall below 80 degrees during the day and/or 60 at night, they should be provided with suitable indoor quarters. Sulcata Tortoises feed primarily on grasses and leaves and do best when they are allowed to graze outdoors on a mixture of grasses. Fresh alfalfa can be given and some will also eat dried alfalfa, but it should be fed sparingly, as it is relatively high in protein. A steady diet of store produce is not recommended because store produce usually has less roughage than their natural diet. Store bought produce is best used as a supplement to outside vegetation. Always get the proper feeding instructions, so your tortoise will be healthy. They need extra calcium when young, as they grow quickly and need the calcium to encourage shell growth and proper bone development. They can be given a supplement of finely powdered calcium carbonate by lightly dusting their food with it. While tortoises don't require much water, they do need some. Juveniles up to 1 year old should be soaked about three times per week, and older tortoises about once a week. Alternatively, Spur Thighs can be provided with a shallow dish for soaking and drinking, and they will defacate in it, so it will need to be cleaned often. If the tortoise is not housed outdoors and exposed to natural sunlight , fluorescent full spectrum lighting is necessary for the tortoise's development. Your tortoise should be given some material for burrowing. Alfalfa pellets and timothy hay make good bedding material, and will not harm the tortoise if they are ingested.

African Spurred Tortoise picture

Southern Sahara Desert, a region that consists of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Chad, and Sudan


The African Spurred Tortoise, also known as the Sulcata Tortoise, is the third largest tortoise in the world, with only the giant Galapagos and Aldabra Tortoises being larger. Sulcata Tortoises are native to the southern Sahara Desert, a region that consists of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Chad, and Sudan. Very little is known about their habits in the wild, as most Sulcatas are observed only in captivity. They sometimes have to travel long distances, grazing all the time, to get their fill, as food is very scarce in the semi-arid region in which they live. They have a sweet tooth, and enjoy treats such as apples and other fruits, though all fruits should be given sparingly as they can cause diarrhea. They are solitary animals, probably because it takes a great deal of the scarce food available to feed the large tortoise. Sulcatas prefer to live in warm, dry areas with lots of sunlight. They do not hibernate as many other desert tortoises do, as the region in which they live does not experience the extreme cold temperatures of some other deserts. They are very strong animals and can move just about anything that is not nailed down. The male tortoise will often ram the female, which produces a thunderous sound. In the wild, Sulcatas spend 85% of their time in burrows. It is very important to mimic the natural environment of the Sulcata Tortoise as closely as possible. Though the average lifespan of the Sulcata is approximately 80 years, they can live 100 years with proper care.




Very little is known about the natural history of the Sulcata Tortoise. Their scientific name is Geochelone sulcata. This tortoise is often called the "Spur Thigh Tortoise", but this is actually not correct. The Spur Thigh Tortoise is a common name for the Greek Tortoise

Common Foods

Sulcatas are herbivores and, in the wild, get most of their food from dried grasses and leaves.


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