African spurred tortoise
The African spurred tortoise, also called the sulcata tortoise, is a species of tortoise, which inhabits the
southern edge of the Sahara desert, in northern Africa. It is the third-largest species of tortoise in the
world, the largest species of mainland tortoise, and the only species in the genus Centrochelys.
C. sulcata is the third-largest species of tortoise in the world after the Galapagos tortoise, and Aldabra
giant tortoise, and the largest of the mainland tortoises. Adults can reach 83 cm (33 in) and can weigh 105
kg (231 lb). They grow from hatchling size (2-3 in) very quickly, reaching 6-10 in (15-25 cm) within the
first few years of their lives. The lifespan of an African spurred tortoise is about 50-150 years, though
they can live much longer. (The oldest in captivity is 54 years, located in the Giza Zoological Gardens,
Range and habitat
The African spurred tortoise is native to the Sahara Desert and the Sahel, a transitional ecoregion of
semiarid grasslands, savannas, and thorn shrublands found in the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan In these arid regions, the tortoise excavates
burrows in the ground to get to areas with higher moisture levels, and spends the hottest part of the day in
these burrows. This is known as aestivation. Burrows may average 30 inches in depth; some dig tunnel
systems extending 10 feet or more underground.
Sulcata tortoises are herbivores. Primarily, their diets consist of many types of grasses and plants, high
in fiber and very low in protein. Feeding of fruit should be avoided.
Copulation takes place right after the rainy season, during the months from September through November.
Males combat each other for breeding rights with the females and are vocal during copulation.
Sixty days after mating, the female begins to roam looking for suitable nesting sites. For
five to fifteen days, four or five nests may be excavated before she selects the perfect location in which
the eggs will be laid.
Loose soil is kicked out of the depression, and the female may frequently urinate into the depression. Once
it reaches about two feet (60 cm) in diameter and 3-6 in (7-14 cm) deep, a further depression, measuring
some eight inches (20 cm) across and in depth, will be dug out towards the back of the original depression.
The work of digging the nest may take up to five hours; the speed with which it is dug seems to be dependent
upon the relative hardness of the ground. It usually takes place when the ambient air temperature is at
least 78 °F (27 °C). Once the nest is dug, the female begins to lay an egg every three minutes. Clutches
may contain 15-30 or more eggs. After the eggs are laid, the female fills in the nest, taking an hour or
more to fully cover them all. Incubation should be 86 to 88 °F, and will take from 90 to 120 days.
Zoológico de Vallarta A. C.
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