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What is the African Spurred Tortoise?

K. K. Lowen
K. K. Lowen

The African spurred tortoise is the third largest type of tortoise in the world, and is the largest mainland tortoise. Also called an African spur thigh tortoise or a sulcata tortoise, its formal scientific name is Geochelone sulcata. The creatures can be difficult to care for when kept in captivity and may be hard to keep as a pet once they grow to their full size.

Found exclusively in Africa, the spurred tortoise lives in the various vegetated sub-regions of the southern Sahara desert. It prefers grasslands and semi-desert areas. Although living in a hot climate, the African spurred tortoise avoids the heat of the sun by burrowing into the ground.

African tortoises are more heat and drought tolerant.
African tortoises are more heat and drought tolerant.

The size and lifespan of the reptiles may vary. A male African spurred tortoise usually will be bigger than a female. The largest male specimens reach about three feet (90 cm) in length and females may be over two feet (61 cm) long, but the average size for most African spurred tortoises is a bit smaller. An African spurred tortoise may live beyond 50 years.

African spurred tortoises are herbivores and like to eat green leafy plants. It also feeds on grasses, hay, cacti, and fruits. When kept as pet, their diets may require the addition of a calcium supplement. Vitamin D3 is also a common supplement for those kept indoors.

Mating takes place in the fall months and begins with male tortoises fighting each other over females. Approximately 60 days after mating, the female African spurred tortoise seeks out an area to make a nest, where it will lay between 15 and 30 eggs. The eggs are buried for an extended incubation period that may last 200 days.

Many people keep African spurred tortoises as pets because they are usually kind and tame. After adopting a young tortoise, some pet owners find themselves ill-prepared to care for the tortoise as it grows to maturity. People who care for these reptiles as pets must be prepared to meet dietary and medical requirements. It may be best to keep the animal outdoors, but many people choose to keep them indoors despite their large size.

A number of health issues can arise when the African spurred tortoise is kept in captivity without proper maintenance. If the reptile eats foods that it does not eat in the wild, gastrointestinal problems can develop. The animal does not live naturally in cold or wet environments, and health issues may occur if the African spurred tortoise receives exposure to excessive dampness or cold conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the African Spurred Tortoise?

The African Spurred Tortoise, also known as the Sulcata Tortoise, is a large terrestrial reptile native to the Sahara Desert and the Sahel, a transitional ecozone of Africa. It is the third-largest species of tortoise in the world and the largest of the mainland tortoises, with some individuals reaching up to 200 pounds in weight and 30 inches in shell length.

What does the African Spurred Tortoise eat?

African Spurred Tortoises are primarily herbivores, consuming a diet rich in grasses, flowers, and other plant material. They require a high-fiber, low-protein diet to maintain proper health. Overfeeding of fruits or protein-rich foods can lead to rapid growth and potential health issues, such as shell deformities and obesity.

How long does the African Spurred Tortoise live?

African Spurred Tortoises have a remarkable lifespan, often living for more than 70 years. With proper care, including a suitable diet, adequate space, and regular veterinary check-ups, these tortoises can even surpass a century, making them lifelong companions for dedicated owners.

What kind of habitat is suitable for an African Spurred Tortoise?

In the wild, African Spurred Tortoises thrive in arid, semi-desert areas where they can dig burrows to regulate their body temperature. In captivity, they require spacious outdoor enclosures with a substrate for digging, access to sunlight for basking, and a sheltered area to retreat from extreme weather conditions.

Are African Spurred Tortoises endangered?

While not currently classified as endangered, African Spurred Tortoises are listed as "Vulnerable" by the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss, over-collection for the pet trade, and other human-related activities. Conservation efforts are essential to ensure their survival in the wild.

Can African Spurred Tortoises be kept as pets?

African Spurred Tortoises can be kept as pets, but they require significant commitment due to their size, longevity, and specific care needs. Prospective owners should be prepared to provide a large outdoor space, proper nutrition, and regular veterinary care. It's important to research and understand the full extent of their care requirements before adopting one.

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    • African tortoises are more heat and drought tolerant.
      By: vladischern
      African tortoises are more heat and drought tolerant.