Sulcata Tortoise a.k.a African Spur Thigh Tortoise or Centrochelys sulcata
Intro to Sulcata Tortoises
Sitting comfortably in 3rd place as the largest species of tortoise, the bold and brash sulcata tortoise is an amazing animal, but is not a pet for most people. These desert dwellers can reach lengths of over 2 feet in shell length and can weigh more than 80 pounds. In the wild, Sulcatas are found across arid scrublands of the Sahel region of Northern Africa. In captivity this species has proven to be prolific, routinely producing multiple clutches of around 40+ eggs a year. The negative effect of their popularity and affordability has led to them becoming one of the most neglected, abused and surrendered pet reptiles.
Sulcata tortoises are herbivores and can be offered fresh greens everyday, such as collard greens and romaine lettuce. Timothy hay and herbivore pellets are another great staple food for these animals. Remember to offer a variety of foods to ensure proper nutrition and keep the animal mentally stimulated. Although a desert species, hydration is very important for tortoises, especially as babies. Soaking baby Sulcatas in shallow water is a great way to ensure adequate hydration. This can be done at least twice a week for about 15 minutes. Misting the enclosure in the mornings is also great to keep humidity in the right place, roughly around 50-65%. A thick layer of mulch substrate allows the tortoises to nestle into the ground to rest and absorb moisture as well. Basking temperature can reach the mid 90s degrees F for babies and adults will happily cook themselves in the low 100s. With so much heat, it is very important to have a heat gradient. All heat elements should be placed above one side of the enclosure, and on the opposite end, a water dish and humid hide if desired. 5.0 UVB should be provided across the enclosure as babies, and can be upgraded to 10.0 as the tortoise grows. 1 to 3 babies can be kept in a 20 gallon enclosure, and adults will preferably need at least a small yard to be kept adequately. If keeping multiple sub adults or adult Sulcatas, make an effort to pay attention to their behavior. Males are known for being very aggressive with each other and it is very common for males to engage in combat. This can prove fatal for the losing male, so it’s best to separate males once discovered (it may take 4-5 years to confirm sex). Make sure to keep a fence the tortoise cannot see through as they can and will break down that fence to get to where they want to go. It’s also a good idea to have a temporary winter home or nighttime housing for cold nights. Temperatures under 50 degrees can be dangerous!
Sulcata Tortoises For Sale in the Pet Trade
Sulcatas can grow to be unmanageable for many people at 10 inches (which is a little over 3 years with proper husbandry), now imagine an animal the size of a wheelbarrow. Many wildlife parks and zoos are overrun with adult sulcatas surrendered to them, and such animals can be a challenge to find forever homes for. With that said, it should not be the plan to rehome or let go of the animal once it gets too big. As a responsible pet owner, it is important to look at the bigger picture and see past the cheaper upfront cost of a baby sulcata tortoise. There are plenty of better options around, such as red foot tortoises and Russian tortoises. If you are interested in keeping a larger tortoise, It is always a great idea to adopt one. As said before, adult sulcatas are always being surrendered to sanctuaries and wildlife parks, and can often be seen on classified ads from people trying to rehome them. Despite their difficult manageability, sulcatas can make amazing pets under the proper circumstances. They can live a very long time and have tons of personality, and are a fascinating animal to keep.