Sulcata Tortoise

Close up of African spurred tortoise, Geochelone sulcata.
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Scientific Name:

Geochelone sulcata

Common Names:

Sulcata tortoise, African spurred tortoise

Life Span:

Sulcata tortoises can live 80-100 years, perhaps longer.


Sulcata tortoise are very large, reaching an adult length of 24-30 inches and weighing in at 80-110 pounds.

Feeding Sulcata Tortoises:

Sulcata tortoises are herbivorous, grazing tortoises and need a high fiber/low protein diet, provided with a variety of grasses and hays (at least 75% of diet) along with some edible weeds and flowers (dandelions, clover, endive, edible flowers, weeds, cactus pads).

Small amounts of other leafy green vegetables are probably okay, but avoid foods high in oxalates (spinach, mustard and beet greens, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower). Do not feed fruits, animal protein, or tortoise foods.


Supplementation with calcium/Vitamin D3 is recommended.

Housing Sulcata Tortoises Outdoors:

These large turtles need a sturdy fence and since they burrow the fence should be extended underground. Shelter in the form of a doghouse or small shed will provide protection from the elements. Building a heated shed will provide a suitable shelter for colder weather. Daytime temperatures can be up to 100 F (37 C), but they should have a heated shelter if the night time temperature drops below 70 F (21 C). A shallow pan of water should be provided, and a muddy wallow may be used as well.

Housing Sulcata Tortoises Indoors:

With the size of these turtles, housing adults indoors gets a bit impractical.

An outdoor heateed shed or greenhouse where they can live when it is cooler is sometimes a better option. Temperatures should be maintained at 80-90 F (27-32) during the day, dropping as low as 72 F (22C) at night. In addition, a basking spot should be provided at 95 F (35 C). A UVA/UVB light is also necessary when housed indoors.

A pan of water should be provided.


Do not hibernate. Also, make sure there is nothing that the tortoise can climb on (steep surfaces, steps, etc.) and tip over onto its back. If they end up on their back when you are not around to rescue them, it is possible they will die.

Care Sheets Online:


  • Sulcata Station - web site devoted to the proper care of the sulcata tortoise.
  • Sulcata Tortoises - by Melissa Kaplan, a good rundown of the natural history, habits and care of the sulcata tortoise.
  • Sulcata Tortoises - from the Tortoise Trust - information and care of this species, and some photos.
  • African Spurred Tortoise (Sulcata) - by Darrell Senneke, a good guide to care of sulcata tortoises.

More Tortoise Information