The African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata), also known as the sulcata tortoise, is a species of tortoise that lives on the southern edge of Africa’s Sahara Desert. The sulcate tortoise is the world’s third-largest tortoise species and it is also the largest mainland tortoise species. Moreover, it is the only extant species in the genus Centrochelys.
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Habitat of The African Spurred Tortoise
The Sahara Desert and the Sahel, a transitional eco region of semi-arid grasslands, savannas, and thorn shrublands found in Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan, are home to the African spurred tortoise. The Spurred is a popular pet tortoise in homes around the world.
It is thought to be extinct in Djibouti and Togo. The tortoise excavates burrows in the ground to reach areas with higher moisture levels in these arid regions and spends the hottest part of the day in these burrows. This is referred to as aestivation. In the wild, they can burrow up to 15 meters deep and 30 meters long.
If the soil is replenished with the tortoise’s feces, plants such as grasses and succulents grow around their burrows and in nature continue to grow for the tortoise to feed. Sulcata tortoises in the Sudanese part of their range can grow to be substantially larger at maturity than those in other parts of their range.
Diet and Reproduction
Herbivores, Sulcata tortoises are. Their diets are primarily composed of a variety of grasses and plants that are high in fiber but low in protein. Flowers and other plants, such as cactus pads, can be eaten.
Breeding can take place at any time between June and March, though it is thought to be more common after the rains from September to November. Males become aggressive and can be seen plowing into one another in an attempt to knock out the competition. They will ram and bite other tortoises while grunting, croaking, and whistle. During breeding, they are extremely vocal.
Following mating, the female will dig four or five nests before deciding on the best one for her clutch of 15 to 30 eggs. (She lays an egg every three minutes on average.) She covers the eggs, which will incubate for approximately eight months. Hatchlings are feisty and competitive with one another.
African Spurred Tortoises as a Pets
The African spurred tortoise is bred and sold throughout the United States, but as adorable as the babies are, they grow quickly and they can grow to be extremely large. Many owners consider them unmanageable and in desperate need of a new home. They are inquisitive, intelligent reptiles with vibrant personalities, particularly when young.
Activities of African Spurred Tortoise
The spurred tortoise is most active during the rainy season, which lasts from July to October. It is crepuscular, which means it leaves the den at dawn and dusk to forage. It warms itself in the morning sun in order to raise its body temperature after the night’s chill.
During extreme temperatures, the tortoise will become inactive and will seek refuge in an underground den. If a sulcata tortoise falls on its back during the day, it could die from hyperthermia.
These tortoises require a large, well-heated, dry terrarium with a solid structure in our care because they are quite strong and active. They are quite capable of running and burrowing.
Pet Care for African Spurred Tortoises
Keeping a pet sulcata tortoise is simple, but there are some important considerations, the most important of which is this tortoise’s large size, as mentioned earlier, as well as the fact that sulcatas are very active. A sulcata can take more than 20 years to reach full size, but with proper care, it can reach it much sooner.
When combined with its activity level, a large sulcata can quickly become a major problem if its keeper is unprepared. Many tortoise rescues are overburdened with large sulcatas that previous owners were unable to care for because they did not realize how much time and money it takes to maintain a full-grown sulcata.
Shelter for African Spurred Tortoise
However, as a pet sulcata tortoise grows in size, it will require its room if kept indoors, or an outdoor pen if kept outside. As a result, many people start their sulcatas outside when they are still young. The outdoor enclosure must be secure, with the enclosure’s walls buried at least 6 inches into the ground for smaller tortoises and deeper for larger tortoises.
Sulcatas, as previously stated, are enthusiastic diggers who can easily burrow beneath walls if they are not sufficiently sunk into the ground. They can also push through a fence that is not secured at both the bottom and the sides, so build accordingly.
Heat mats should be used with caution since they are intended to be used in open areas and can cause a fire hazard if the heat they emit gets trapped. A heating pad should be secured to a wall, or a space under the enclosure should be given. In both instances, a rheostat should be used. A ceramic heating element in combination with a rheostat, in my opinion, is the best heat source because it is relatively secure and easy to monitor. However, make sure your tortoise isn’t in direct contact with it.
Fantastic Facts About the Spurred Tortoise
- The African Spurred Tortoise’s last living relative in the genus Centrochelys lived over 5 million years ago on the Island of Tenerife.
- The backbone of a tortoise is embedded in the top of the shell so they cannot live without a shell.
- The shell of a tortoise is called a carapace.
- The rib cage of the Spurred tortoise is part of the underside of the carapace.
Feeding African Spurred Tortoises
If sulcatas have free access to a well-kept lawn, they will spend the majority of the day grazing on it. They will eat most grasses and broad-leaf weeds, as well as any bugs, slugs, or snails they can catch. If an injured rodent or bird ends up in its yard, it will almost certainly be eaten by the tortoise.
Dark, leafy greens like romaine lettuce, escarole, endive, green-leaf lettuce, and kale, as well as occasional veggies like carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, and squash, should be given to your sulcata. Bermuda and orchard hay are nice supplements if they’re available. Fruits like apples, pears, melons, and bananas, as well as berries like strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and others, can be served in limited amounts. In limited amounts, collard, mustard, and turnip greens can also be sold.
Conservation of African Spurred Tortoise
The conservation status of African Spurred Tortoise has been classified as “endangered” according to IUCN. Sharing this fascinating reptile with Zoo visitors is a great way to raise awareness about the dangers that this tortoise faces in the wild. However, please never take a spurred tortoise from the wild as it will risk their population numbers and harm their place in the ecosystem and food chain.
Q & A About The African Spurred Tortoise
Is it possible to keep an African spurred tortoise as a pet?
These tortoises make good pets because they are normally calm and docile. They are rarely territorial or hostile. However, they should not be treated on a regular basis, particularly when they are young and vulnerable. Excessive handling can cause a tortoise to become stressed, resulting in health problems or even death.
What age do African Spurred Tortoises Live to?
They are only 2 to 3 inches long when they are born, but they grow quickly. It takes 15 years for them to reach full maturity. Spurred tortoises can live to be 150 years old, thanks in part to their slow metabolism and the fact that they do not expend energy keeping themselves warm.
What is the price of an African spurred tortoise in Captivity?
Many pet shops in the U.S and Europe sell especially bred baby spurred tortoises (sulcata tortoises). They have become popular since the 90’s. You can get your very own sulcata from a pet store for between $50 and $200, depending on where you live. Please do not take a spurred tortoise from it’s natural habitat.
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