Sulcata Tortoise

Centrochelys sulcata

Sulcata tortoises, or African spurred tortoises, are the third largest tortoise species in the world after the Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) and the Aldabra giant tortoise (Geochelone gigantea). Sulcata tortoises grow to be 80cm in length and weight 100kg!

These tortoises are native to the Sahara Desert and a transitional ecoregion of semiarid grasslands, savannas, and thorn shrublands called the Sahel.

Sulcata tortoises are herbivores and eat a variety of grasses and plants. Their diet is high in fiber and very low in protein.

Tortoise live solitary lives. They come together to breed after the rainy season, where males compete for the rights to mate. 60 days after mating, female tortoises search for a suitable nesting site where she digs a nest around 60cm deep. After laying a clutch of around 15-30 eggs, the female fills over the next. Hatchlings normally emerge after 90-120 days.

Sulcata tortoises do not hibernate. The dig large burrows into areas of high moisture levels where they spend the hottest times of the day/dry season. This is a process called aestivation.

The sulcata tortoise is classified by the IUCN Red list as Vulnerable. This is due to the destruction of their habitats and over grazing by livestock. They also fall prey to nomadic tribes who see them as a food source and young tortoises are highly sought after for the pet trade.

Animal Encounters

Animal Adoptions


Sulcata tortoises are native to the Sahara Desert and the Sahel in northern Africa.


Sulcata tortoises are herbivores eating many types of grasses and plants


Sulcata tortoises are threatened by habitat destruction, overgrazing, hunting and over-collection for the pet trade.



Local population face significant threats, including those in Mali, Ethiopia and Senegal.


Booking a visit to Fife Zoo is easy! Just click the button below.