Common Name: Sulcata Tortoise or African Spurred Tortoise
Scientific Name: Centrochelys sulcata
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.