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African Spurred Tortoise

Geochelone sulcata
African Spurred Tortoise
Conservation Status: 
Northern Africa

The African Spurred Tortoise also called the African spur thigh tortoise or the sulcata tortoise, is a species of tortoise which inhabits the southern edge of the Sahara desert, in northern Africa.  It is the third largest species of tortoise in the world and the largest species of mainland tortoise (not found on an island).  

The African spurred tortoise is native to the Sahara Desert and the Sahel, a transitional ecoregion of semi-arid grasslands, savannas, and thorn shrublands found in the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.  In these arid regions the tortoise excavates burrows in the ground to get to areas with higher moisture levels spending the hottest part of the day in these burrows.  This is known as aestivating. Burrows may average 30 inches in depth; some dig tunnel systems extending 10 feet or more underground.

The Sulcata is the third largest species of tortoise in the world after the Galapagos tortoise, and Aldabra Giant Tortoise; and the largest of the mainland tortoises.  Adults are usually 24 to 36 inches long (60-90 cm) and can weigh 100-200 pounds (45-91 kg).  They grow from hatching size (2-3 inches) very quickly, reaching 6-10 inches (15-25 cm) within the first few years of their lives.  The lifespan of an African Spurred Tortoise is about 50-150 years, though they can live much longer.  (The oldest in captivity is 54 years, located in the Giza Zoological Gardens, Egypt, 1986).

Sulcata tortoises are herbivores.  Primarily, their diet consists of many types of grasses and plants.  Their diet is high in fiber and very low in protein.  The consumption of too much protein can cause their shells to take a pyramid appearance.  Feeding of fruit should be avoided.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "African Spurred Tortoise", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.