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Sulcata Tortoise

Fact File

Continent: Africa
Weight and length: 43kg, 30cm


Diet: Herbivore (Plant Eater)
Gestation:  8 Months

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Conservation Status: VU


  • They grow very quickly when young, doubling their size every year until they are 3 years old.
  • The sandy colouration camouflages them in their natural habitat.
  • The patches on their shells are called scutes, which have growth rings. These rings show when the tortoise has eaten well or not.
  • This is the largest tortoise species of the African mainland.
  • The hind surface of their thighs have two or three spurs, which give this animal its name.
  • During the dry season they will enter aestivation, which is like hibernation. They rest and their metabolism slows.

African Spurred/Sulcata Tortoise

Geochelone Sulcata

Animals — Sauropsida (reptiles) — Testudines (turtles) — Testudinidae (tortoises)

African Spurred Tortoises are the largest tortoises of the African mainland, beaten in size only by Galapagos and Aldabra (an african island) giant tortoises. Some are captured for the pet trade, but they grow rapidly when young and are soon too large for most keepers. They are vulnerable and are threatened by habitat loss and grazing competition from livestock, and to some extent capture for eastern medicine.

They enjoy basking, especially in the morning after cooler nights. This species is very long lived, and it is thought that they could live for up to 150 years.

Habitat: Hot, arid environments ranging from desert edges to dry savannah.

Vital Statistics:
–Average weight: 43kg
–Average length: 30cm

Life Expectancy:
In the wild up to:  80 years
In captivity up to:  54.3 years and counting (the documented oldest African spurred tortoise is still alive)

Diet: Eats succulent plants that will also provide water, generally grasses and other local plants.

Distribution: Along the southern edge of the Sahara through the countries Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Eritrea.