AFRICAN SPURRED TORTOISE

QUICK FACTS

Scientific Name

Geochelone sulcata

Species Survival Plan

No

Habitat

Hot, arid environments; desert fringes to dry savannahs

Predators

Man

Food

Grass, plants, flowers, some insects and grubs

Originally Native To

Southern Sahara desert including the countries of Chad, Sudan and Ethiopia

Height

Approximately 12 inches

Weight

Male 150 - 200 lb.
Female 80 - 130 lb.

Characteristics

Third-largest land tortoise; broad, oval, flattened carapaces that are brown to yellow in color; legs are covered in spurs

Gestation Period

88 days

Offspring

15 - 30 eggs

Birth Season

Fall months

Lifespan

Wild ?
Captivity 60 - 80 years

Social Behavior

Solitary, only meet up to breed

iucn_badge_vulnerable

ABOUT THE AFRICAN SPURRED TORTOISE

Relatively little is known about African spurred tortoises in the wild due to lack of field research. They are solitary creatures that live in some of the harshest regions of Africa.

It is the third-largest tortoise species in the world after the Galapagos and Aldabra species, but it is the largest mainland tortoise. The largest African spurred tortoise on record was 232 pounds. While these tortoises are popular pets, they do grow quickly and can be difficult to manage as adults. 

In the wild, they feed on grasses, flowers, weeds, and cacti. In captivity, they are voracious eaters and have a similar diet with the addition of leafy greens. To withstand extreme heat (up to 120 degrees in the wild) and cold, they will dig elaborate tunnels with dens up to 10 feet deep.

African spurred tortoises don’t usually drink water. In order for these tortoises to stay hydrated, they soak in any water they can find. Drinking too much water can actually make them sick.

These tortoises also act like bulldozers. If they can see through an object, they will try and plow through it and are usually pretty successful. They are curious, intelligent animals with lively personalities, especially when young.

Turtles and tortoises are a very old group of reptiles, going back about 220 million years. Of all the animals with backbones, turtles are the only ones that also have a shell, made up of 59-61 bones covered by plates called scutes, which are made of keratin like our fingernails.

The turtle cannot crawl out of it because the shell is permanently attached to the spine and the rib cage. The shell’s top is called the carapace, and the bottom is the plastron. Turtles can feel pressure and pain through their shells, just as you can feel pressure through your fingernails.

Turtle or tortoise? It depends on who you ask or where you are in the world, but most people recognize tortoises as terrestrial or land-loving with stubby feet (better for digging than swimming) and a heavy, dome-shaped carapace. Aquatic and semiaquatic turtles are known as just that, turtles. Turtles tend to have more webbed feet (but not always) and their shells are more flat and streamlined.

At Fossil Rim, this tortoise lives at the Children's Animal Center.

 

MEET THE NEIGHBORS

  • Common Waterbuck

    Waterbuck are found in southeastern, central and western Africa. When exposed to a high level of human activity, they will become almost completely nocturnal, only...

    Read More
  • Scimitar-Horned Oryx

    The scimitar-horned oryx once again roams the grasslands of Chad. Extinct in the wild in the late 1980s, 23 animals were released to native habitat...

    Read More
  • Roan

    Roan, the fourth-largest antelopes in Africa, are usually active in the morning, late afternoon and evening. The roan is associated with woodland savannas, but is...

    Read More
  • Ostrich

    The ostrich is the world’s largest living bird. Its weight, small wings and weak wing muscles combine to make it flightless. Ostriches use their wings...

    Read More
  • Nigerian Dwarf Goat

    The Nigerian dwarf goat is a miniature dairy goat that comes in wide variety of colors and markings. Both males and females of this species...

    Read More
  • Aoudad

    Aoudads, also known as Barbary sheep, are the only wild sheep in Africa. They were brought to the U.S. in the early 1900s for exhibition...

    Read More
  • Grevy’s Zebra

    This zebra is named for Jules Grevy, a French president who received one from the king of Ethiopia as a gift in the 1880s. It...

    Read More
  • Greater Kudu

    Very large antelopes, the male kudu have thick, spiraled horns that can reach six feet in length. Sexually dimorphic, only the males have horns and...

    Read More
  • Giraffe

    Giraffes are the tallest living land mammals, and although it looks like their hind legs are shorter, all four legs are almost the same length....

    Read More
  • Cheetah

    The sleek cheetah is built for speed and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in seconds. However, it can run only 600 yards before it is...

    Read More
  • Arabian Oryx

    The oryx is one of the best desert-adapted large mammals, capable of living in a waterless habitat where few other species can survive. They can...

    Read More
  • Dama Gazelle

    Formerly one of the most prevalent Saharan gazelles, this antelope is the largest gazelle species....

    Read More
  • Addax

    There are less than 100 addax in the wild. Formerly ranging over the entire Sahara Desert of Africa, four-wheel drive access to the desert and...

    Read More

ANYTHING YOU GIVE HELPS THE ANIMALS

As a private nonprofit corporation, Fossil Rim does not receive national or state government support. Every cent spent or donated here goes in some way, directly or indirectly, toward the care of our animals.