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Tortoises have existed for millions of years and are known for their long lifespans. However, many species of tortoise are endangered and at risk of disappearing from our world altogether. One such example is the African spurred tortoise, which you’ll find here at Blue Planet Aquarium. Let’s learn a little more about this incredible animal.

What is an African spurred tortoise?

The African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata) is also known as the sulcata tortoise. The word ‘sulcata’ comes from the Latin sulcatus which means furrowed, referring to the patterned shell. This particular tortoise is the only surviving species in its genus, however some of its closest relatives may include the Galapagos tortoise and Aldabra tortoise.

The African spurred tortoise is the largest mainland tortoise in the world, with the ‘spurred’ part of its name referring to the spurs on its hind legs. It is usually sandy in colour with an oval shell. An adult male sulcata tortoise can weigh up to 90kgs!

Behaviour and habits of an African spurred tortoise

African spurred tortoises hatch between 4-8 months depending on the temperature. Around 15-30 eggs are laid and covered with sand and soil to incubate before they hatch. The temperature also dictates the gender of the hatchlings. As with many other species of reptile, the African spurred tortoise does not actively raise its young.

The females become mature at around 10-12 years, with the males following at 13-15 years. They have been known to live up to 80-100 years old!

During the dry season, the African spurred tortoise will dig a burrow to sleep in, to avoid the scorching heat of the day. For this reason, this species of tortoise is crepuscular, which means it is more active at dawn and at dusk, when the temperatures are a little more bearable.

Where do African spurred tortoises live?

While the name may give it away somewhat, the African spurred tortoise is native to the Sahara desert and can be found in hot, dry places. You’ll find this type of tortoise in places such as Ethiopia, Sudan and Mauritania. They prefer shrubland and grassland, and will dig their burrows which can be up to 3 metres deep in order to hide from the extreme temperatures that come with the desert environment.

Unfortunately, the population of African spurred tortoises is in decline, and has been classified as endangered by the IUCN. The main threats to this species is the loss of habitat, desertification and international pet trade.

What does an African spurred tortoise eat?

The African spurred tortoise is a herbivore and eats plants such as grasses, flowers and succulents such as cacti. However, thanks to its incredibly slow metabolism, this species can go for weeks without eating or drinking! When it does come to drink, the African spurred tortoise can drink up to 15% of its own weight.

Where can you find us?

Blue Planet Aquarium is home to its very own African spurred tortoise, which you can find in our Lake Malawi exhibit. This exhibit is designed to recreate an African environment, with tropical temperatures and stone-like surroundings to mimic the mountains and rock formations of this part of the world.



What do they eat?



Water Type

Where are we?

Sahara Desert

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