African Spurred Tortoise/Sulcata Tortoise

African Spurred Tortoise/Sulcata Tortoise  Geochelone sulcata

Type of Animal:

Desert, desert-savanna transition zone, savanna-forest transition zone, thorn shrubland, savanna, grassland, semi-desert. Only found in arid & semi-arid regions.

Southern edge of Sahara, Sahel region of Africa

Males much larger than females, brown to golden yellow color, growth rings on scutes in carapace, spurs on rear legs, deep concave round shell in male, flatter shell in females, deeply forked gulars in male.

Grasses, clovers, weeds, greens, leaves

Status in Wild:

Breeding from zoos & private breeders

Solitary or small herds of 1 male w/ 2-4 females.

Additional Info:


Male-100-200 lbs
Female-80-100 lbs
Young-0.96 oz

2 months

2.5 ft

Body Length:
Male-3 ft
Female-1.6-2 ft

Life Span: 
50-80 years

Tail Length:

Main predators are canids & felids.

Males very aggressive towards each other & sometimes fight to death w/ other males by flipping rival over. If male can’t get back up, it could overheat. Males also bite & ram at each other.

During courtship, male rams & bites female, then immobilizes her while mating.

Very common in pet trade.

Largest mainland tortoise species in the world.

Females lay 40-120 eggs during breeding season from September-November.

Males vocal during breeding season.

Doesn’t hibernate in cool weather but slows down.

Exceptional diggers, able to dig burrows up to 20 ft deep. Burrows made to keep cool.

Very strong animals able to ram through weak fences.

Most active at dawn & dusk (crepuscular).

Burrows can be 2.5-3 ft deep, sometimes creating tunnels extending more than 10 ft.

Latin name comes from Latin word sulcus meaning furrow referring to furrows on shells.

Fun Fact(s):
Can go weeks w/o food or water & can drink up to 15% of body weight.

Some cultures keep tortoise in village because tortoise seen as mediator between men & gods.

Not recommended as pet for many, due to potentially large size & temptation as chew toy if person owns house cat or dog.

Generally peaceful & non-aggressive in temperament.

Symbol of virtue, happiness, fertility, & longevity in Senegal.

They love dry, outdoor weather from 70-95 F.

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