Tortoise ( African Spurred Tortoise)

Geochelone sulcata

IUCN Red List status: Vulnerable

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Where they live

Africa from Senegal and Mauritania east through Mali, Chad, Sudan Ethiopia and Eritrea


desert fringes and dry savannah


max shell length 83cm




80 years


declining rapidly due to habitat loss, capture for pet trade and hunting for food and body parts for traditional medicines

Did you know...

  • Adults become dormant when it is very dry
  • They get their name from large conical spurs on the hind surface of the thigh

More about African spurred tortoises...

The African spurred tortoise – not to be confused with the spur-thighed – is the third largest species of tortoise and is beaten only by the giant tortoises of Aldabra and Galapagos.

The African spurred tortoise is found living along the southern fringes of the Sahara desert living in the actual desert fringes or the neighbouring hot dry marginal grasslands.

They are primarily most active during the rainy season in July to October. They emerge from their burrows at dawn and dusk to forage for succulent plants and grasses. The early part of the day is often spent basking in the sun as the body temperature is raised after the cold desert night.

With onset of the hot dry season, adult tortoises often retreat to their cool, moist burrows and become dormant. Young tortoise aestivate in the burrows of small mammals. This process is called aestivation and is the opposite of hibernation.

Mating most often occurs after the start of the rainy season.The female will lay a clutch of 15-30 eggs in a nest selected from as many as four or five she has dug. Once laid, the eggs are covered with soil and left to incubate underground for about eight months.

The desertification of the Sahel region of Africa caused by overgrazing with domestic livestock and the extreme drought conditions suffered in the region have lead to rapid declines in the populations of these animals.

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