African Spurred Tortoise

Creature Features

Its shape is round, with a tan-colored patternless shell that is more flat than domed. The word “sulcate” comes from the Latin word sulcus, meaning a groove or furrow. In regard to the sulcate tortoise, this refers to the distinctive growth rings that are produced as the tortoise’s scutes grow with each seasonal cycle.

They eat grass, flowers, weeds and cacti. Like all tortoises, they are herbivores.

Breeding occurs anytime between June and the following March, though it is more common after the rains from September to November. Males become aggressive and can be seen plowing into one another to flip over the competition. After mating, the female will dig four to five nests before she decides which one will best suit her clutch.

Fun Facts

  • Other Names: Grooved Tortoise, Spur Tortoise
  • Scientific Name: Geochelone sulcata
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
  •  Lifespan: 80 to 100 years
  •  Body Length: Largest mainland tortoise, easily reaching 30 inches
  •  Weight: Well over 100 pounds
  •  Gestation: 60 days
  •  Incubation underground: 8 months 
  • Number of eggs: 15 to 30 per clutch
  •  Habitat: Desert and dry savanna
  • Distribution: Southern edge of the Sahara Desert from Senegal and Mauritania, east through Mali, Chad, the Sudan and Ethiopia to Eritrea.

Did You Know?

  • A tortoise can go weeks without food or water, and when it finds a water source it can drink up to 15 percent of its body weight.
  • These animals find relief from the desert heat by digging burrows up to 10 feet deep.