The Sulcata

Scienfic Name:- Geochelone sulcata

There are no restrictions on their importation for the pet trade unlike the Mediterranean tortoises.   They originate from the Southern Sahara desert, an area of harsh scrubland.

They have a rounded carapace and the front of the plastron (the gular scute) has a forked projection which is used for fighting in males.  They are light brown in colour with two large spurs on each thigh (hence their name African spurred tortoises).   They have strong,   sturdy legs,   the front ones are very powerful with thick toe-nails.   The legs are also covered in heavy bony scales as a protection from predators and an aid for burrowing.

Habitat :- The terrain they naturally live in is harsh,   scrub land and the climate is very hot and dry.   Day time temperatures often reach 35-40oC   (95-104oF) and night time temperatures can drop quite dramatically and at certain times of the year external temperatures may drop as low as freezing so they spend much of their time below ground in large excavated burrows where the constant micro climate protects against the cold.   Juveniles will require an indoor environment with good source of UVB lighting and adequate space.   Sulcatas are very lively tortoises and need a large interesting environment to keep them occupied.   A pen for an average size pair of Sulcatas should be at least 10 metres square with access to a fully insulated heated shed noless than 4m x2m.

The air temperature within the tortoise house must not be allowed to drop below 21oC (70oF).   Hot spot temperatures during the day must be kept at no less than 30oC   (86oF).   This can be an expensive business and must be taken into consideration before buying.

Sulcatas do not hibernate and during the winter months these animals will reside mainly within their heated shed.

Diet :- They are strictly herbivorous and mainly feed on grasses.   In captivity they should be fed on assorted meadow grasses and edible weeds such as dandelions,   clover,   sow thistles and plantain.   Never feed fruit or meat to sulcatas.   The use of hay during winter months is very beneficial.   Water must be available at all times,   and must be kept clean.   Calcium supplements are very important for these tortoises which reach massive proportions.

Life expectancy :- more than 70 years.

These tortoises are the second largest tortoise species and can reach a size of 60cm (24in) and weigh up to 50kg (110lb)! The average male length is 60cm,   weight 40-50kg and the average female length is 40cm,   weight 30-40kg.   Adult males are very competitive and use the forked plastron (underside shell) for combat and courtship battles and these tortoises are generally quite aggressive.

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