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Sulcata Tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata)

The African Spurred Tortoise, which is also called the African Spur Thigh Tortoise or the Sulcata Tortoise, inhabits the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, in Northern Africa. It is the third largest species of tortoise in the world. Adults are usually 18-24 inches in shell length, and weigh 70 to 100 pounds. Specimens with 26 to 36 inch long shells weighing 150 pounds+ are not unknown. They grow from hatchling size (2+ inches) very quickly, reaching 6-10 inches within the first few years of their lives.

The carapace (top shell) is tan to yellow in color in the center of each scute (the external plate or scale of the shell). Each scute is outlined by brown growth rings. The plastron (bottom shell) is light tan to yellow in color with no markings. The skin of African Sulcata Tortoises is very thick and the legs are covered in dull, spine-like projections. The prominent spurs on the rear legs serve no observable function.

Daytime temperatures during most of the year should range from 75-100F. During the night, the temperature inside their enclosure should not fall below 70F. Heat must be provided if the tortoise is kept outdoors during winter. They will also need access to shade during warm days and all summer long.

Toxic plants or vegetation not suitable for the Sulcata's diet should not be accessible to them. African Spurred Tortoises should be fed a diet that is very high in fiber. They will feed eagerly on a mixed salad of greens and vegetables each day, but you should also try to offer as much grass, hay, dandelions, edible leaves, and Opuntia cactus pads as possible. A sprinkle of calcium should be offered on their salad every few times. For optimal health, they should be fed fruits only sparingly or not at all.

Tortoises do require water! If your tortoise wont voluntarily drink from a shallow water dish, you should soak it in warm shallow (no deeper than the base of its throat) water for at least 10 minutes at a time. Hatchlings (babies) must be soaked at least once daily since they are at the greatest risk for dehydration. As your tortoise gets larger, it can be soaked less frequently.

You cannot keep a Sulcata small by keeping it in a small aquarium or by under-feeding it. Sulcatas get big! They are not appropriate pets for anyone living in a house without a yard and are completely unsuited for anyone living in an apartment. Many buyers of large reptiles believe that they can keep them for a few years until they get "too big" and then sell them or give them to a zoo. Zoo keepers will no longer take them and rescues are filling up. Make sure you are thinking very long term when considering whether or not a Sulcata is for you.