The genus Geochelone contains 21 species all of which are relatively large when adult. It includes the commonly kept African Spurred Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata), Leopard tortoise (G. pardalis) and Red-footed tortoise (G. carbonaria). African Spurred Tortoise is the largest of the world's mainland tortoises, reaching 200 pounds (90 kg). It is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, from Mauritania (west) Ethiopia (east). This species feeds on any vegetation, storing it for feeding during dry season when it may also take carrion and organic waste. This species does not hibernate, only burrows. It is called spurred because of the enlarged scales on the front of its front legs that look like spurs. These aid the animal to dig burrows.
African Spurred Tortoise is a hardy, adaptable animal that is bred in large numbers. The sexes are difficult to differentiate, but females are smaller than males. Females make several 40 cm deep nests with up to 19 eggs per nest. When properly cared for, hatchings grow very rapidly. They reach large sizes and full maturity in just a few years. If kept outside the African Spurred Tortoise has a tendency to dig large, burrows that can be as long as 10 feet (3 m). Keeping them in an outdoor pen is the ony housing option. Tortoises generally have lifespans comparable with those of human beings. African Spurred Tortoise can live up to 100 years.
Photo by Larysa Johnston
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