The Sulcata Tortoise is native to the African desert. They are also called the African Spurred Tortoise because of the spikes that you see on their legs and shell. There is one rainy season where they are from. They drink as much water as possible and then hold onto it for multiple weeks at a time. During the dry season they eat succulents to keep their moisture levels up. They say never pick up a turtle or tortoise because one of their defense mechanisms is to urinate, when they do that they lose all of their water storage, and for a desert tortoise that could be dangerous. To escape the heat, they also dig burrows in the wild that are typically between 10-15 feet long. We can’t have them doing that here because they would escape, so we give them houses and hope their happy with it.
This is the largest mainland tortoise in the world, which is good enough for third largest tortoise in the world. They regularly reach weights of about 70-110 pounds, but the boys (like Tank) have been known to get up to and over 200. They are also fairly long lived, averaging out to about 70 years lifespan but they have been recorded living into their 150’s.
Sulcatas are becoming a really big problem in the United States. They are very popular in pet shops and are super cute and adorable as babies. What people don’t realize when they buy a 2 inch hatchling is that their tortoise will become a monster tortoise by about 10 years old, and they only stop growing by the time their about 30!
If you look underneath the males’ chins, it looks like they have a collar, those are called their gular scutes and that’s what they use to fight. These just ram each other from the front like sumo wrestlers and whoever gets the higher ground gets that underneath the other’s shell and pushes them backwards. It is pretty dangerous and the males do it for about 2 months before establishing a pecking order, so that’s why all the boys are separate. The one girl is by herself because Sulcatas can lay up to 48 tortoises a year, and we’d have no idea what to do with that many tortoises and don’t want to find out.
Minky and Mo were both people’s pets that got a little bit too big for their homes. Moby was originally owned by the same people who had Lucy Pig, when they got rid of Lucy they sent her best buddy with her. Franklin is the product of a divorce. His parents got separated and they couldn’t pick who got the tortoise, so we got him here. Tank is 26 years old. He was originally purchased for someone’s son 25 years ago, over the course of 25 years the son grew up and moved out of the house, and they couldn’t take Tank with them so he left Tank with his parents. They felt like they couldn’t take care of Tank properly anymore so he came here.