African Spur Thigh Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata)



The African Spur-Thigh Tortoise is native to the Southern Sahara desert region. It can reach 3-4 feet in length, and weigh up to 240 pounds. Reptile experts claim that these tortoises will live up to 70 years, but many cases have been reported of this species living for up to 150 years.

These tortoises are uniformly a brown- to golden-yellow color. They have well-defined spurs on their rear legs, which gives them their name. Growth rings will appear on each scute (shell section) on the carapace. Their skin is thick; this may help it retain fluid during dry periods.

The African Spur Thigh Tortoise are grazers. They need high-fiber, low-protein food such as mixed grasses, orchard hay, timothy hay, hibiscus leaves and flowers, clover, prickly pear pads, dandelion greens and flowers, Dutch clover, rose leaves and petals, and sow thistle.

Sixty days after mating, the female begins to roam looking for suitable nesting sites.   For five to fifteen days, four or five nests may be excavated before she selects the perfect location in which the eggs will be laid.   Loose dirt is kicked out of the depression, and the female may frequently urinate into the depression. Once it reaches approximately 2 feet   in diameter and approximately 3-6 inches deep, a further depression, measuring some eight inches across and in depth, will be dug out towards the back of the original depression.   The work of digging the nest may take up to five hours; the speed with which it is dug seems to be dependent upon the relative hardness of the ground.   It usually takes place when the ambient air temperature is at least 78 F.   Once the nest is dug, the female begins to lay an egg every three minutes.   Clutches may contain 15-30 or more eggs.   After the eggs are laid, the female fills in the nest, taking an hour or more to fully cover them all. Incubation should be 86 to 88 degrees F, and will take from 90 to 120 days.


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