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Sulcata (Geochelone sulcata)

Sulcata (Geochelone sulcata)

The species sulcata (Geochelone sulcata, the African spurred tortoise) has been available throughout the summer. Be warned, though, they grew extremely large and are not suitable as pets for anyone but the devoted and knowledgeable enthusiast.

Giant tropical tortoises lay large clutches of eggs, twenty plus being not unusual, and this has presented temptations for those seeking to supply

the pet trade, especially when here in the U.K. the supply of imported Mediterranean tortoises has long since been greatly restricted and has virtually dried up.

The first sulcata offered for sale in the U.K. were produced by a British enthusiast, but most of the hatchlings available in recent years have originated in California (Andy Highfield, the Tortoise Trust, pers. comm.). Pet owners who have contacted us have frequently commented that they were not informed at the time of purchase that these tortoises would grow so large. Hatchlings which appear at first sight to the uninitiated to be 'normal' young tortoise size and appearance, quickly grow in a matter of a few years to 15 to 20 cm in length. They need a lot of space and dry conditions. Unfortunately, many of the hatchlings offered for sale during the past five years are destined to die prematurely from incorrect care. We are already seeing them with soft and deformed shells from incorrect feeding and vitamin and mineral deficiency.

Care of Sulcatas

March 2000 saw a donation of Sulcata Tortoise to Glasgow Zoopark. About six inches long it had a noticeably soft shell. If left untreated this can result in a deformed shell, or death.

They need calcium, in the form of powdered cuttlefish bone, or a mineral supplement. They also need good vegetables, not just lettuce and tomatoes.

Artificial lighting is very important. Lights sold for iguanas are just the thing. They are made of quartz glass, which does not inhibit the emission of ultra-violet rays.