African Spurred Tortoise

The African Spurred Tortoise, Geochelone sulcata, is a species of tortoise which inhabits the southern edge of the Sahara Desert in northern Africa. Coming as they do from the southern Sahara, they are well adapted to hot, dry climates. They derive most of their moisture from their diet, and they regulate their temperature and humidity needs by retreating into burrows.

The African Spurred Tortoise is the third largest species of tortoise in the world. Adults are usually 18 inches in shell length and weigh between 70 and 100 pounds. 150 pound specimens have been recorded as well. From first hatching they grow rather quickly, reaching 6 to 10 inches in its first few years of life.

Due to their natural environment being so close to the equator, these tortoises do not hibernate. During the day they coat their skin with mud to keep cool. When mud wallows are not available, they retreat to burrows which they dig in the ground. In turn these burrows are important to other wildlife as well. They sublet and make dens and alcoves off the main burrow. Due to the natural lack of ground water, the African Spurred gets its water from its food and will not drink water even when available.

Due to the availability of these animals in the pet trade it is important to know the dietary intake of this species. In the wild they mainly eat wild grasses and weeds. Many vegetables can be toxic to their system and can lead to death. In captivity, foods such as red leaf lettuce, cucumbers, hay and clovers should make up the bulk of their diet. Small quantities of caterpillars and snails may also be given.