Pictures Of My Property For Sulcata Rescue And Info On Keeping Them

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fishera79

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I have done alot of research in caring for Sulcatas and I live in a desert climate. The soil is very sandy but I practice soil concervation techniques to keep native grasses and plants maintained on my property. I received most of this information from a person in the area that raises them so if there is any misinformation please let me know.

African Spurred Tortoise
Sulcata Tortoise ~ Spurred Tortoise ~Grooved Tortoise
Family: Testudinidae

Not only is the African Spurred Tortoise the largest tortoise on the African mainland, ...it is the third largest tortoise on the planet!
These amazing tortoises, the African Spurred Tortoises (also called the Sulcata Tortoise or Spurred Tortoise) are large, impressive animals. The only larger species of tortoise are the giant tortoises from the Galapagos and Aldabras.
The African Spurred Tortoises are outgoing, very tame, and are among the most hardy of the pet tortoises. Though this may sound like a desirable pet, you must keep in mind that not only do they get large, but they have large care requirements. They grow relatively quickly, are very powerful, and require a lot of food, a varied diet, and a lot of space. You must consider these needs before acquiring this wonderful tortoise for a pet. They do get much larger than most owners can deal with.
Distribution:
African Spurred Tortoises, also called the Sulcata Tortoises, are found in hot, dry scrubland areas in a large swath across North-Central Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. They live in the deep burrows in which they seek refuge from the heat. They browse grass and plant growth. Unfortunately, these tortoises are becoming very scarce in nature.
Status
This tortoise is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: VU - Vulnerable and and listed on CITES: Appendix II.
Description:
African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises grow quite large, with many adult females reaching 20” (50 cm) and 30” (76 cm) for males. Females typically reach weights of 65 to 75 pounds and large males can grow to 125 to 150 pounds.
True to its name, the African Spurred Tortoise has spurs on its hind legs, though the purpose of these spurs is not known. It has a carapace (upper shell) that is broad and oval shaped. It is more flattened on the top with sides descending quickly, turning into serrations that turn upward on the edge. The plastron (bottom shell) is an off white color. Their head is brown with the overall body color varying from a yellowish brown to golden. The skin is very thick and there are large scales on the front legs that overlap.
Juvenile African Spurred Tortoises
Males are difficult to distinguish from females though they do get much larger, their tails are slightly longer and thicker, and they have a more concave plastron. It is almost impossible to sex these tortoises when they are young, smaller than about 15" (38 cm).

Care and Feeding:
African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises should be fed a diet that is very high in fiber. They will feed eagerly on a mixed salad of greens and vegetables each day, but you should also try to offer as much grass, hay, dandelions, leaves, and Opuntia cactus pads as possible. A sprinkle of calcium should be offered on the salad every few times.
For optimal health, they should be fed fruits only sparingly or not at all. Offer some melon, apple, and other fruits during the hot summers, but only once every ten days to two weeks. These Tortoises should not be fed any dog food or cat food and commercial foods only very seldom as they are prone to renal problems and medical issues related to high protein diets.
Water should be offered in a flat saucer. This can be a flat dish or a plastic saucer such as the type that is normally placed under a plant pot. These can be easily cleaned and sterilized once a week or as needed. For small tortoises, once a week simply remove it from the enclosure and soak it in shallow water. This will give the small tortoise some water to drink and will let it rehydrate.
Environment:
African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises require warm, dry environments and so if you live in a humid area, be very careful about keeping these tortoises outdoors. Living on the damp ground will cause serious medical problems with these tortoises. A pair of adults will require a large backyard and outbuilding that is at least 12’ wide x 24’ long.
The substrate can be a mixture of ¾ sand and ¼ peat moss. A layer of grass hay can be added at one end to provide some shelter. The substrate should be kept dry as African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises are sensitive to damp conditions.
Though outgoing and very tame, you should provide a variety of shelters to give these tortoises a feeling of security. Add large pieces of curved cork bark, large banana leaves, piles of straw or hay, etc. for the tortoises to use as shelter. The shelter should be located at the cooler end of the enclosure and not directly under the heat-emitting lamps.
Heat should be provided using a heat-emitting bulb in a lamp from overhead. Ideally, this heat lamp should hang just about 12” above the substrate. The heat-emitting bulb should be provide a basking spot of 90º to 95º F (32º to 35º C) at one end of the enclosure. This will provide a hot end for the tortoise to enjoy.
Lighting can be provided with a shop light fixture overhead that is fitted with one or two UV-emitting bulbs. These can be found at your pet store or on-line from a variety of sources. UVB-heat bulbs® from T-Rex products and Reptisun® bulbs from Zoomed will also provide UV radiation to the enclosure. This UVB is necessary for Vitamin D3 production (needed for calcium absorption, proper muscle functioning, etc.).
Indoors:
The most common form of indoor accommodation for a small or medium sized African Spurred Tortoise or Sulcata Tortoise is a large terrarium. You can also use plastic tubs, wooden cages, and other enclosures, but glass terrariums are easy to find at the local pet store and they come in a variety of sizes. Of course, as the tortoise grows, it will need larger and larger enclosures.
Outdoors:
All tortoises benefit from being kept outdoors for all or part of their lives. They receive doses of UVB radiation, environmental heat, and of course enjoy a connection to the grass, plants, and soil found in outdoor pens. Outdoor enclosures should offer shelter from heat, a secure place to rest, and a water source. Food offered to these tortoises can be supplemented by plantings of some of their favorite grasses, fruits, and vegetables within the enclosure. Also be very diligent to make sure that outdoor enclosures are escape-proof and predator-proof.
Handling:
African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises are outgoing and very tame. A large animal, they are also very strong . They can dig deep burrows, push over ornaments in the yard, and cause other mischief. So be sure to carefully “baby proof” the tortoise’s habitat. You want to be sure it cannot flip over on its back anytime you are away as this can prove fatal for the tortoise.
Though these tortoises are quite tame, most tortoises probably do not enjoy being handled. The African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises usually won’t retreat into their shells and will usually look around to see what is going on.
They can be hand-fed, and red strawberries, pieces of melon, and hibiscus flowers are some of their favorite treats. Specimens that have been raised from small, captive-hatched babies and which are open to daily interaction over many years become the most tame and easily handled.
Breeding:
An established pair of African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises can be very prolific and in warm areas can produce year-round. A light winter cooling, followed by hot days triggers breeding in these tortoises. A healthy, active pair can produce two to four clutches of 10 to 30 eggs each season, depending on the size of the female.
It is felt by most keepers that the addition of protein and calcium to female tortoises’ diets is essential in having them produce clutches of healthy, viable eggs. Eggs hatch in as many as 90 days when incubated in the 82º to 86º F range of temperatures.
Ailments / Health Problems:
African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises are found in hot, dry habitat. Thus, their captive enclosures should reflect this need. When kept cool or damp for an extended period of time, you can expect this tortoise to begin showing respiratory problems. The early signs are puffy eyes, runny noses, etc. You should strive to maintain an enclosure that is hot and dry to avoid these health issues.
These tortoises are really only available as captive-hatched babies these days, so you should not be concerned about internal parasites unless a baby has been kept in the enclosure with wild-caught adults or wild-caught tortoises of another species.
Long-term lack of appetite, runny or smelly stools, and blood in the feces are signs of a problem and you should visit a qualified veterinarian if any of these signs are noticed.
Availability:
African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises are readily available from better reptile stores, on-line, or at reptile shows and expos.
Try to purchase your tortoise from a breeder or someone with intimate knowledge of tortoises. They will help you set up the proper enclosure and will give you helpful hints so you are successful. Also, if you don’t have to ship your tortoise, that is always best. A beginning keeper should purchase a tortoise that is at least three months old to make sure it is past the delicate stage.
PLEASE do not ever release an African Spurred Tortoise or Sulcata Tortoise, or any reptile pet into the wild. There are adoption organizations that will take your unwanted pet, no questions asked, and find the proper captive environment for it. (www.ttpg.org for details)
History
The Sulcata tortoise (Geochelona) “the gentle giant” are from North Central Africa where the temperatures get over 100 degrees. Sulcata tortoises live over 80 years. They are the second largest tortoise (under the giant tortoise of the Galapagos island).

Facts
Make sure you do your homework before buying any tortoise to ensure it is the right one for you. Make sure you have adequate space, appropriate housing, and time to properly care for your tortoise. Tortoises do not hibernate and can get very large.
Sulcata tortoises are very strong when they are fully grown. The yard in which they are kept should be fenced in with very strong materials. Sulcata’s have been known to move walls and even posts supported in concrete to get to something that interests them. Anything that is brightly colored will attract their attention and they will attempt to eat it. For this reason, anything that is small enough to be ingested, such as toys, cans, glass, and plastic should not be kept within the Sulcata's range. Because Sulcatas are such voracious eaters, they produce a large amount of waste. Daily cleaning of the yard will be necessary when they are fully grown.
Size
Sulcata tortoises can reach an adult length of 2-3 feet in length and 100-200 pounds
Care Facts
• When looking for a tortoise make sure your tortoises’ eyes and nose are clear, the shell is hard, and the tortoise feels solid.
• Tortoises do not hibernate. You must bring them indoors or have an outdoor enclosure. Once the temperature has dropped below 50 degrees F and will not reach at least 70 degrees F during the day, your tortoise must be housed indoors or in an outdoor enclosure.
• Sulcata tortoises will grow very fast. Within 10 years they will be fully grown. This means they can weight between 100-200 pounds and grow between 2 to 3 feet in length.
• Once your tortoise is four to six inches long, it can be safely placed outside. When placing tortoises outside, make sure you place them in a safe enclosed yard. Check to ensure there is not a way your tortoise can escape.
Your tortoise can be left outside to graze during the warmer seasons. This is important for your tortoise to be healthy. And he or she can keep all the weeds and grass trimmed
Feeding
• Sulcata tortoise are grazers.(They are like cows!!!) They prefer to eat grasses. They will graze all day on your grass (make sure that your grass doesn’t contain any pesticides or poisons) all day. They will eat clovers, dandelion, and other weeds. During the warm seasons, their diet should primarily be grasses outside. Two to Three times a week supplement their diet with the other foods listed below.
• Sulcata tortoises feed on a variety of grasses- Bermuda , Rye , Alfalfa, Blue grass, Fescue
• Opuntia Cactus-spineless prickly pear cactus
• Carrots- only on occasion
• Mustard Greens
• Escarole
• Romaine Lettuce
• Kale- only on occasion
• Dandelion
• Squash
• Strawberries- only on occasion
• Apples- only on occasion
• Zucchini
• Pumpkin-only on occasion
• Mazuri Tortoise Diet- Essential if a juvenile or during the winter months when grasses outside are unavailable- Before feeding soak the Mazuri in lukewarm water for about 30 seconds until soft. Let sit for about 1 minute before giving to your tortoise.

Avoid
• Beet greens
• Spinach
• Rhubarb
• Cabbage
• Collards
• Broccoli
• Iceberg lettuce
• Fruits-only sparingly
• Never feed any tortoise dog or cat food


Indoor Enclosures
• Hatchlings should be kept inside. This allows you to ensure your tortoise is eating, has the correct temperature, and is protected from other animals.
• Any large plastic Tupperware box or sweater box, or fish tank, can make a great habitat for your tortoise. The bottom of the cage should have either newspaper or paper towels with reptile hay or filler on top. On one side of the cage should be a hide box or the tortoise can get in when sleeping.
• A water container should be placed so your tortoise can get in and soak (but make sure the container isn’t so deep to drown in).
• A UVB light should be placed on the dry side of the cage in order for basking. The tortoise requires a basking light, so they can elevate their body temperature to 85-90 degrees which aids in digestion.

Summary
• Cage/Large Tupperware box and Hide box (if housing indoors) Juvenile only
• Hay/reptile filler
• Heating element
• UVB light
• Container to soak in

Outdoor Enclosures
• The outdoor enclosure should be as big as possible.
• This enclosure should provide shelter from other animals, and the outdoor elements.
• The enclosure should have a place for your tortoise to get out of the sun, as well as bask in the sun.
• The enclosure should provide adequate space to walk around during the winter months when the weather is cold.
• A bowl or dish should be placed in the pen that your tortoise can get in and soak. The bottom of a flower pot container can work well.
• Converting a very large dog house, a large Rubbermaid shed, a greenhouse, a storage shed (that has been insulated) can make an excellent outdoor enclosure to heat.

Soaking
If you have a juvenile Sulcata, they should be soaked 2-3 times per week. In a small shallow bowl, place lukewarm water and set you small Sulcata in the water. They should soak up to 20 minutes. The water should not be too deep. The water should come up to the bottom part of their shell. A large Sulcata should have access to a large dish (or small children’s size plastic pool put into the ground slightly so they can get in and out of it). A large Sulcata should have access to soak 2 times a week.

Care Facts for Children
• Sulcata tortoises are not easy pets for children to take care of. They get very large and very heavy. If you are considering buying one for your child, ensure an adult will help with the care and upkeep of the tortoise. As well as the safety precautions of hand washing and proper handling.
• Turtles as well as other reptiles can carry salmonella. It is important that good hand washing techniques are taught. After handling any turtle or reptile, ensure hands are washed with soap and water. Small children should never be left unattended with turtles or reptile because they can place them in their mouth or place their hands in their mouth after handling the reptile.
• Any issue or questions you have about your tortoise please consult your vet.

Why have a Sulcata tortoise
• A fun way to bring nature into your life
• Very quiet pet.
• Will help keep the weeds and grasses down in your yard.
• Easy to care for as long as your feed, and house it correctly.
• Very personable…. They will follow you around the yard.
• They are truly a lot of fun.
• What an unusual pet to have!!!
• One of the oldest and largest land creatures.
• What a beautiful pet.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Environment:
Heat should be provided using a heat-emitting bulb in a lamp from overhead. Ideally, this heat lamp should hang just about 12” above the substrate. The heat-emitting bulb should be provide a basking spot of 90º to 95º F (32º to 35º C) at one end of the enclosure. This will provide a hot end for the tortoise to enjoy.
Lighting can be provided with a shop light fixture overhead that is fitted with one or two UV-emitting bulbs. These can be found at your pet store or on-line from a variety of sources. UVB-heat bulbs® from T-Rex products and Reptisun® bulbs from Zoomed will also provide UV radiation to the enclosure. This UVB is necessary for Vitamin D3 production (needed for calcium absorption, proper muscle functioning, etc.).
African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises require warm, dry environments and so if you live in a humid area, be very careful about keeping these tortoises outdoors. Living on the damp ground will cause serious medical problems with these tortoises. A pair of adults will require a large backyard and outbuilding that is at least 12’ wide x 24’ long.
The substrate can be a mixture of ¾ sand and ¼ peat moss. A layer of grass hay can be added at one end to provide some shelter. The substrate should be kept dry as African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises are sensitive to damp conditions.
Though outgoing and very tame, you should provide a variety of shelters to give these tortoises a feeling of security. Add large pieces of curved cork bark, large banana leaves, piles of straw or hay, etc. for the tortoises to use as shelter. The shelter should be located at the cooler end of the enclosure and not directly under the heat-emitting lamps.
Feeding
• Sulcata tortoise are grazers.(They are like cows!!!) They prefer to eat grasses. They will graze all day on your grass (make sure that your grass doesn’t contain any pesticides or poisons) all day. They will eat clovers, dandelion, and other weeds. During the warm seasons, their diet should primarily be grasses outside. Two to Three times a week supplement their diet with the other foods listed below.
• Sulcata tortoises feed on a variety of grasses- Bermuda , Rye , Alfalfa, Blue grass, Fescue
• Opuntia Cactus-spineless prickly pear cactus
• Carrots- only on occasion
• Mustard Greens
• Escarole
• Romaine Lettuce
• Kale- only on occasion
• Dandelion
• Squash
• Strawberries- only on occasion
• Apples- only on occasion
• Zucchini
• Pumpkin-only on occasion
• Mazuri Tortoise Diet- Essential if a juvenile or during the winter months when grasses outside are unavailable- Before feeding soak the Mazuri in lukewarm water for about 30 seconds until soft. Let sit for about 1 minute before giving to your tortoise.

Avoid
• Beet greens
• Spinach
• Rhubarb
• Cabbage
• Collards
• Broccoli
• Iceberg lettuce
• Fruits-only sparingly
Never feed any tortoise dog or cat food
Soaking
If you have a juvenile Sulcata, they should be soaked 2-3 times per week. In a small shallow bowl, place lukewarm water and set you small Sulcata in the water. They should soak up to 20 minutes. The water should not be too deep. The water should come up to the bottom part of their shell. A large Sulcata should have access to a large dish (or small children’s size plastic pool put into the ground slightly so they can get in and out of it). A large Sulcata should have access to soak 2 times a week.
Summary
• Cage/Large Tupperware box and Hide box (if housing indoors) Juvenile only
• Hay/reptile filler
• Heating element
• UVB light
• Container to soak in
Handling:
African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises are outgoing and very tame. A large animal, they are also very strong . They can dig deep burrows, push over ornaments in the yard, and cause other mischief. So be sure to carefully “baby proof” the tortoise’s habitat. You want to be sure it cannot flip over on its back anytime you are away as this can prove fatal for the tortoise.
Though these tortoises are quite tame, most tortoises probably do not enjoy being handled. The African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises usually won’t retreat into their shells and will usually look around to see what is going on.
They can be hand-fed, and red strawberries, pieces of melon, and hibiscus flowers are some of their favorite treats. Specimens that have been raised from small, captive-hatched babies and which are open to daily interaction over many years become the most tame and easily handled.
Description:
African Spurred Tortoises or Sulcata Tortoises grow quite large, with many adult females reaching 20” (50 cm) and 30” (76 cm) for males. Females typically reach weights of 65 to 75 pounds and large males can grow to 125 to 150 pounds.
True to its name, the African Spurred Tortoise has spurs on its hind legs, though the purpose of these spurs is not known. It has a carapace (upper shell) that is broad and oval shaped. It is more flattened on the top with sides descending quickly, turning into serrations that turn upward on the edge. The plastron (bottom shell) is an off white color. Their head is brown with the overall body color varying from a yellowish brown to golden. The skin is very thick and there are large scales on the front legs that overlap.
Juvenile African Spurred Tortoises
Males are difficult to distinguish from females though they do get much larger, their tails are slightly longer and thicker, and they have a more concave plastron. It is almost impossible to sex these tortoises when they are young, smaller than about 15" (38 cm).
 

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wellington

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The best you can do is read everything you can find here on TFO. A lot of the info out there on other sites is outdate, not all, but a lot. The threads at the bottom of my post are good reads. However they are for babies. But you will see in the threads how a lot of the old opinions and ways are not accurate. Good luck. There are a lot of adult sulcata owners on here. Listen to them for all the help you need.
 

Katherine

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Well that's some serious summer reading! Your property looks beautiful and I think a Sulcata would be happy to call it home. A lot of the information you have is opinion based, and a lot of it is an opinion I do not share, but we all raise our tortoises differently and as you begin to acquire them you will figure out what works best for you and can modify your care regimen accordingly. Good luck : )
 

Tom

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A lot of that info is very good. The natural history stuff is spot on.

Some of the info is debatable, like the feed some fruit once in a while thing, and the don't feed collards or spinach...

Then some of this info is dead wrong and dangerous: 3/4 sand substrate is just asking for impaction and eye infections.

Soaking a baby once a week and keeping it in a dry enclosure is a great way to slowly kill its internal organs through chronic dehydration. I have seen this MANY times. Yes they come from a dry area, BUT #1. That's why they stay underground where it's damp and humid, and #2. For 4 months out of that year it's a hot humid rainy swamp over there. This is the time when the adults are out and about, and this is the time of year when the babies hatch out. I have been asked many times, "who soaks them every day in nature?" Well... Mother nature does...

Sulcatas are not the least bit sensitive to moisture, humidity and dampness. They thrive in a hot swamp that simulates the African rainy season. What they cannot tolerate is being too COLD and wet too often or for too long. Just look at all the super healthy ones from Louisiana and South Florida. Adults tolerate the dry just fine, but it can literally be deadly to keep the babies dry. This is also the cause of pyramiding in the babies.

Check out some of these threads for more info:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/Thread-Helpful-Threads#axzz1rwIPo0pU
 

Laura

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what a beautiful natural area.. a few sulcatas in there will destroy it, but they will be happy! you can easily build a shallow pond for them to sit in and drink..
you might need some trees or other shade source. I would Not encourage them to dig natural burrows, so some sort of housing will be needed.. and possible a solid fence, so they cant see thru it.. some do ok, bit other will do anything to get out to the other side if they can see it.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Amber:

What you've posted looks like something that you've taken from a pretty old book or care sheet. We don't take care of sulcatas that way anymore. Your best bet is to forget all that old stuff and read all the fresh, new stuff that you can find here on the forum.
 

Laura

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have you considered rescuing the native desert torts? I cant help but think of them when looking ot your pictures.. Perfect are for them!

they would need a seperate area from the sulcatas, if you take in both..
 

BrookeB

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I don't like the "dry" way but thats my thoughts :D good luck and welcome
 
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