Sulcata Tortoise Fast Facts
Meet Robyn, Howard and Shelly. Sulcata tortoises, also known as the African spurred tortoise, are the third largest species of tortoise in the world! Despite their size, sulcatas dig burrows in the ground to take shelter from the hot sun. Their burrows are around 30 inches in depth, but some have been known to dig extensive tunnel systems measuring 10 feet. Surviving in these harsh habitats can be difficult. Sulcatas conserve their energy, by moving very slowly, which allows them to go weeks without eating.
Sulcata tortoises are herbivores, eating grasses, weeds, low hanging leaves and cacti.
Tortoises will mate following the breeding season. Males will fight for breeding rights to the females, charging at each other to display strength and dominance. During this time, females will search for a suitable area to dig her nest, spending over five hours, digging and urinating on an area, resulting in a nest around 2 feet wide and 6 inches deep. In this nest she will lay between 15-30 eggs, covering the nest in soil before she leaves. Parent tortoises offer no parental care, and abandon the eggs as soon as they are laid. The young hatch after 8 months and are 2-3 inches long. Due to their small size hatchlings have a high mortality rate, with only a small percentage of young surviving to adulthood.
Threats + Conservation
Sulcata tortoises are listed as ENDANGERED on the IUCN Red List. They were sadly reclassified as endangered very recently on the 29th August 2020. This decline is living proof that animals are rapidly declining in our lifetime! Their threats are caused by habitat loss for agriculture and livestock. They are also taken from the wild for the pet trade. Sadly as these tortoises start small, but grow into monsters, many pets are abandoned as they age because people do not research the species and size they will eventually grow to. If you are interested in a pet, always do through research before investing.
1. The name spurred thigh comes from the hard nodules on their legs, designed as armour to protect their legs from predators. 2, It takes 15 years for a sulcata tortoise to reach maturity. 3. In times of drought, sulcata tortoises can drink up to 15 percent of its body weight.