COMMON NAMES: Sulcata tortoise, African spurred tortoise
SCIENTIFIC NAME:Geochelone sulcata
ADULT SIZE: 24 to 30 inches long, weighing 80 to 110 pounds
LIFE EXPECTANCY:70 years or more
BASIC DIET FOR A HATCHLING SULCATA
It is a good idea to make up a week’s worth of salad, refrigerate it, and dole out a small amount daily. Enough salad should be offered every day so that there is a little bit left over each night. This insures the young tortoise is eating enough to sustain a healthy gastrointestinal flora which helps with proper digestion and growth.
AS YOUR BABY GROWS
With proper care a sulcata hatchling will quickly outgrow its original enclosure and will need larger amounts of salad every month. Eventually, most sulcatas end up being moved to an outdoor enclosure. Adult sulcatas need a lot of space, at least 100 sq ft of floor space per adult tortoise. They can be kept as breeding trios of one adult male and up to four adult female tortoises, but there may be fighting depending on the individual personality. They have been known to kill and eat smaller tortoises so do not mix sulcatas that are of vastly different sizes.
Sulcatas dig long elaborate burrows in the wild to avoid the extremes of heat and cold of the Sahara Desert. They can actually undermine the foundation of houses and block walls if their burrows extend deep enough underneath these structures. Adult sulcata tortoises can push through chain link fence unless it has been deeply rooted into the ground and secured with stakes or a concrete foundation.
Your outdoor enclosure should have a day-night fluctuation of around 15°F, with a spring/summer/fall daytime high upwards of 95°F and a nighttime low of 80°F or lower. There may be spots that are much warmer as long as the sulcata has an appropriate retreat from the intense heat and sunlight. At all times, there should be a cool/hot zone of 85°F for the tortoise to retreat to if it is too warm or too cold. Sulcata tortoises are often kept outside with only a shelter against wind and rain in the Phoenix area as long as the temperature stays in the mid-50s or above. Sulcatas should be put in warm dry shelters when the weather gets colder or there are long period of cold rain. Although many sulcatas have been kept outdoors without any supplemental heat when nighttime temperatures drop below 60°F, this does put some individuals at risk of developing medical problems.
WITH PROPER CARE
Sulcatas have wonderful personalities when they are kept properly. They live for decades and seemingly become quite bonded with their owners. Most will outlive their owners if given the right care. Unfortunately, animal shelters and rescue groups are overwhelmed with unwanted tortoises that have outgrown their owners’ households so you cannot rely on them to provide your pet a home when you are unable to do so anymore. Make sure you have friends, relatives, or other arrangements to care for your pet when you are unable to give them proper attention.