Picture a big and strong animal crawling towards you; then it’s probably the sulcata tortoise. The sulcata tortoises are quite enormous in size and can weigh as much as 80 to 110 pounds with a length of 22 to 30 inches. They could also live for as long as 60 to 80 years in captivity.
These sumo reptiles are botanically known as Geochelone sulcata, or African spurred tortoise but do not make for excellent pets due to their long lifespan, however, if you have one in your possession, then there are specific things you need to do to keep them healthy.
Sulcata Tortoises behaviour and temperament
Sulcata tortoises are no different from other tortoise species but their size makes them even slower, and this makes it easier for them to get stuck in places that are too small for them to pass through. They mostly flip themselves over mistakenly and would need consistent supervision to know when to right them.
The temperatures where they are enclosed needs to be warm to help them stay active and healthy. Even though these babies make for a good companion, people find it hard to adequately provide for them for such a long time especially when they are full grown and most sulcatas end up getting re-homed.
In as much as this challenge is present, sulcata tortoises are docile pets and are also great companions. They are too slow to bother about being territorial and are hardly aggressive. Although they adapt well in warmer parts of the United States, but they come from central Africa. They are the most-bred tortoises and remarkably the third-largest tortoise species in the world.
Sulcata feeding and drinking
Sulcata tortoises are generally known to graze for grasses and hays, which means they are herbivorous in nature. Grasses and hays make up for at least 70% of their daily diet which includes flowers such as clover, endive, dandelions, cactus pad and weeds. The combinations of their diets are high fibre and low protein.
Be sure to avoid foods rich in oxalates such as mustards and beet greens, kale, broccoli, spinach and cauliflowers but the little amount of leafy green vegetables are okay.
Endeavour to include calcium and vitamin D3 powder in their vegetables daily. Avoid feeding them with animal proteins, feed fruits or pelleted tortoise foods gotten from pet store to a sulcata. The idea is to minimise their protein intake and maximise fibre in their diet to ensure they maintain good health throughout their lives.
Accommodating a Sulcata Tortoise
Like every large tortoise, the sulcata tortoise requires sturdy fences to adequately handle their strength, as they are strong enough to pull down weak pens, so ensure the barriers and rooted deep into the ground since these bad boys are very good at burrowing into soils.
Make sure the enclosure is big enough and safe from dangerous elements. More suitable is a heated shed to help wade off cold when the weather drops too low. Bear in mind that sulcatas can’t survive extreme cold climates, especially cold winters outdoors. Heat does it for them to ensure their survival.
Provide a muddy wallow to help them soak and defecate in, as well as a shallow pan or bowl of water for drinking. Ensure the dish or pan is strong enough, if not fixed permanently to the ground, so it saves you the stress of having to replace the water in it since they have the strength to topple it over.
Your pet is guaranteed good health as long as you maintain the pen’s temperature between 80 and 90 degrees during the day and as low as 72 degrees at night. Too much might expose it to diseases that may affect its diet. Ensure they are exposed to direct sunlight most time of the day; and if they have to be indoors during winter, UVA/UVB light can be provided to ensure your pet stays healthy and its bones strong and also aids to avoid metabolic bone disease.
Choosing a Sulcata Tortoise
Before acquiring a sulcata tortoise, it is imperative that you do some research on them. Knowing about them as well as the health history of the one(s) you are getting from a reputable breeder is highly crucial. It is essential to get a sulcata that is healthy to save the stress of treatments.
Signs that a sulcata tortoise is healthy to include smooth shell, clear eyes, mucus-free mouth. You could insist on seeing it eat; healthy sulcatas usually have a large appetite for food and aren’t shy to display their eating abilities. It is possibly sick if it doesn’t greedily consume much.
Health Problems associated with sulcata tortoise
The universal health problems related to a sulcata, like many other reptiles, are respiratory infections, and they quickly get exposed if they are kept in environments that are too humid. Like most tortoise and turtles, the sulcata tortoise could suffer from shell rot which is caused by fungal infections that result in flaky and dry shells. This generally occurs when the crawler’s phosphorous-to-calcium ratio is out of balance.
Signs also include weakening and softening of its bones and could cause deformities and death is inevitable if not appropriately treated. Unless you have prior experience, do not attempt to treat your pet on your own. Contact a professional veterinarian to help stabilise your pet’s health condition.
Do you have a sulcata tortoise as a pet? How have you been taking care of it? Share with us in the comments.