Tortoise, Sulcata

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Physical Characteristics

The sulcata is the third largest species of tortoise in the world after the Galapagos and the Aldabra giant tortoise, and the largest of the mainland tortoises. Adults are usually 24 to 36 inches in length and can weigh 100 to 200 lbs. Their lifespan is 50-150 years.


Sulcata tortoises are native to the Sub-Saharan area of Africa and the Sahel. Although this is a very arid region, sulcatas require constant access to water. In the wild they avoid dehydration by digging long, deep tunnels. Their diet in the wild consists of grasses, weeds and flowers. It also favors the fruit and pads of the prickly pear succulents and thistles.

Social Behavior

They are solitary by nature, although they will sometimes burrow together to stay cool. They are largely crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk.


Meet our Residents

Fascinating Facts

    • The term sulcata actually means “furrow” in Latin. This pertains to the furrows which can be found on a sulcata tortoise’s scales.
    • To get to areas with higher moisture, they can dig burrows which may reach up to 10 feet below the ground!
    • Growth rates of sulcatas are probably more variable than any other tortoise. You could literally have a 10-inch tortoise that is 3 years old or 10 years old.


Status In The Wild

They are listed as Vulnerable.

Waystation Residents

Click on the pictures below to meet our resident animals!

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