African Spurred Tortoise


True to its name, the African spurred tortoise has spurs on its hind legs; however, the purpose of these spurs is unknown. Its carapace (upper shell) that is broad and oval shaped with a tan color. It is more flattened on the top with sides descending quickly, turning into serrations that turn upward on the edge. The plastron (bottom shell) is an off-white color. The skin is very thick and there are large scales on the front legs that overlap.


Surprisingly, these tortoises are able to run and burrow quite well.  Most of their activity takes place between dawn and dusk, and they generally become inactive when the weather is very hot or very cold.  By spending time in self dug burrows or “pallets”, the African spurred tortoise can survive extended drought periods.  Adult males will hiss when approached too closely and retreat into their shell or burrow, where they wedge themselves in. Females do the same, make croaking noises, and throw the rear part of their shell violently about.

Did You Know? 

  • The African spurred tortoise is the 3rd largest tortoise in the world! 
  • The Swahili name for tortoise is Kobe, or Makobe (plural)
  • It is believed they can live to be over 100 years old!

Our Animals

Two male spurred tortoises live here at the zoo.  Both are relatively young, and should be calling the zoo home for a long time to come!


Scientific Name Geochelone sulcata
Conservation Status IUCN: Vulnerable
Size Males can grow to be 35 inches in length, and females to around 26 inches. Males can weigh in at a whopping 200 pounds!
Average Lifespan 50-100 years.
Wild Diet Dried grasses and leaves; with a special preference for morning-glory plants.
Found along the southern edge of the Sahara desert