African Spurred Tortoise

Centrochelys sulcata

Species Information

Chew Valley Animal Park is home to Howard and Titan. You’ll be sure to find these big tortoises grazing or enjoying a warm bath!

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They live in dry, arid regions especially in the southern parts of the Sahara Desert, ranging from East Africa in Senegal to West Africa in Ethiopia.

They are the 3rd largest tortoise in the world and largest mainland tortoise growing up to 80cm in length and weighing 100kg. Its light tan carapace gives it camouflage and they have spurs on their hind legs (hence their name).

Vegetarians, eating mainly succulent plants, grass and dry leaves amongst their habitat. They get most of the water they need from these plants but will also drink 15% of their body weight when water is available and will also soak moisture through their skin.

Up to 80-100 years.

Males can be quite aggressive in nature, even from birth they will ram, bite and try to flip each other onto their shell. They spend mornings basking in the sun to increase their body temperatures from chilly nights, before digging 35 inches deep into burrows and tunnels where there is more moisture they can soak up and they can cool down from the high temperatures. They also sleep in these burrows, with at least one more tortoise.

When courting, a male will circle a female and bang shells before copulating. 60 days later, the female will then lay 15-32 eggs in the ground which will incubate underground in a covered nest for about 8 months.

Vulnerable. Due to habitat loss, hunting, and young tortoises used in the pet trade before they reach sexual maturity at 15 years and so cannot reproduce.

They make all sorts of sounds, including grunts, croaks and whistles! Also, if the temperature is too high, they salivate and rub their forearms with the saliva to cool down.