Centrochelys (Geochelone) sulcata
African Spurred Tortoises
|One of the most important aspects of keeping
a Sulcata is being sure that you actually have one. Common names can be
misleading. Sulcata are often sold as "spur thigh" tortoises or "African
spur thigh" tortoises. This name is usually reserved for a much smaller
north African Testudo species....Testudo graeca .|
In the photo section there are many pictures of G. sulcata for comparison. At World Chelonian Trust you can get information on T. gracea
C. sulcata is a large species (up to 2.5 feet long and over 200 lbs.) from the Sub-Saharan area of Africa. Although this is a very arid region, sulcatas requires constant access to water. In the wild they avoid dehydration by digging long tunnels. They are very well adapted to an arid environment.
Comparison between a 19 year old 150 pound adult and a hatchling
When small they can be kept in large indoor pens. However, after a few years they will out grow most indoor accommodations. These powerful animals have been reported to bulldoze through sheet rock and patio doors.
They do well in outdoor pens in warmer states. But even here in South Carolina they require a heated house. A Rubbermaid bicycle shed works great. In cooler climates they will need to be brought in when the temps drop below 60°F. Not any easy chore with a 200 lb tort.
Diet & Care
|Care for sulcata and leopard tortoises are
essentially the same. However, due to size differences and aggression they
shouldn't' be housed together.
The diet should be at least 70% grasses and hay. Not surprisingly, given its preference for grassland habitats the Sulcata grazes, extensively upon mixed grasses weeds, and flowers. It also favors the fruit and pads of the prickly pear (Opuntia sp.), succulents and thistles. "Meat" foods should never be given to Sulcata because it can lead to excessive growth, high blood-urea levels, kidney/liver problems, and bladder stones.
In captivity it is a common error to feed too much wet food such as lettuce, tomatoes and fruit when in reality this tortoise requires a coarse, high fiber diet. The sugar content of fruit will also alter the pH of the gut which results in a die off of the normal gut flora. Feeding excessive fruit or soft foods frequently leads to repeated flagellate (a type of parasite) and other gut problems such as colic, most probably as a result of increased gut motility.
information can be found in the diet section of
Unfortunately, many believe that tortoises naturally acquire almost all
of their fluid requirements from its food and that therefore they do not
require additional drinking water. Sulcata are indeed adapted to a semi-arid
environment and its system of eliminating waste via uric acid rather than
via urea is clear evidence of this. Uric acid can be eliminated using
substantial lower levels of water wastage than can systems based on urea,
such as those of mammals. Therefore, tortoises, such as Sulcata,
eliminate nitrogenous waste products with far greater water conservation.
Its behavior is also programmed to reflect this need not to waste precious