Sulcata Tortoise

Sulcata tortoises are amazing creatures, and the rescue houses several of them. We often try to bring one with us to events when possible. Sulcatas are not the right pet for many homes. Although, they are usually calm and sweet, they do grow very large, need a specific diet, and live a very long time. They also need a lot of room to roam and dig deep burrows. Per policy, sulcata tortoises are sanctuary animals here at the rescue. We do not adopt them out.

Speedy came to us as a tiny baby only a few months old, and is one of our youngest. 'She' is still too small to properly sex so we named her speedy for now because she is a fast little tortoise!
Kumi, another young tort, was surrendered in Nov 2019 and is finding 'his' place in the herd, this one is also still too small to sex.
Frankie Lyn was brought to us several years ago. She was likely about a year back then. Unfortunately she already had some health issues and significant pyramiding for a little one. She is small but we believe she is a female. She is now good and healthy and while pyramiding never actually goes away, it can stop and become a lot less noticeable as the tortoise grows with proper care.
Clancy is likely our oldest tortoise. He was originally born in Africa where a solider brought him home as a pet. That was over 20 years ago. His 'grandmother' still stays in touch and asks about him from time to time. He doesn't come to many events because he prefers the quiet solitude of his own space.
'Sulcata Tortoise' - Did you notice we had one with no name? This poor guy was found wondering the streets and turned over to us. We've had him since June 2019 and no one has ever come forward. Unfortunately, this guy also has significant shell deformity which could lead to a shortened lifespan.
Bela - Many of you have met Bela and come to love him. Bela was our very first tortoise that was gifted to us by a friend when he was only about the size of half dollar. These days Bela is starting to get too large to bring to all events, but we bring him when we can because he actually likes the attention and getting to explore new places.

Common Name: Sulcata Tortoise or African Spurred Tortoise

Scientific Name: Centrochelys sulcata

Family: Testudinidae

Diet: Herbivore

Group Name: Creep

Average Life Span: More than 70 years

Size: Over 33 inches

Weight: Over 200 lbs

IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Current Population Trend: Unspecified 


About Sulcata Tortoises


The African spurred tortoise, also called the sulcata tortoise, is a species of tortoise, which inhabits the southern edge of the Sahara desert, in Africa. It is the third-largest species of tortoise in the world, the largest species of mainland tortoise, and the only extant species in the genus Centrochelys.


The African spurred tortoise is native to the Sahara Desert and the Sahel, a transitional ecoregion of semiarid grasslands, savannas, and thorn shrublands found in the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan. In these arid regions, the tortoise excavates burrows in the ground to get to areas with higher moisture levels, and spends the hottest part of the day in these burrows. Burrows can be very shallow or reach way down into a long tunnel system. Plants such as grasses and succulents grow around their burrows if kept moist and in nature continue to grow for the tortoise to eat if the soil is replenished with its feces. 


Sulcata tortoises are herbivores. Primarily, their diets consist of many types of grasses and plants, high in fiber and very low in protein. Flowers and other plants including cactus pads can be consumed


Due to their reputation for having a pleasant temperament, sulcata tortoises are sometimes kept as pets, despite presenting significant challenges mostly because of their size. They require large enclosures, temperatures above 60 °F (16 °C), regular moisture, and bedding composed of dry grasses, alfalfa, or grass-based hay. Due to their high dietary fiber needs, grasses should account for a minimum of 75% of their food intake. To remain healthy they require sufficient calcium for bone and shell development, low protein, and minimal to no fruit or sugary foods. Whereas wild tortoises obtain enough calcium from the soil, pets generally require calcium supplements. If treated incorrectly, their shells may become deformed in a myriad of ways. Young sulcatas grow quickly and can double in size each year during the first three years.


Many high moisture content vegetables such as lettuce as well as fruit cause health problems in large quantities but prickly pear cactus pads, hibiscus leaves, hay from various grasses, and dandelions are generally safe. Some common garden plants, such as azaleas, are toxic to tortoises. Lack of calcium combined with high protein contributes to shell malformations and pyramiding. Sulcatas are voracious eaters.


Source: Wikipedia