African Spurred Tortoise


African spurred tortoises have a brown to yellow carapace. They have very thick skin that is a golden to yellow-brown color. The spurs on the tortoises, located on their rear legs, are not known to serve a purpose. Male and female tortoises look alike.  Males that are mature may develop reverted marginal scales in the front and tend to have longer and thicker tails. Their plastrons are more concave than females as well.


Aggression is commonly seen throughout this species’ lifetime, especially in males. As soon as they hatch they are observed ramming into and flipping over other tortoises. They will burrow when it gets too hot or cold. Burrowing also helps them avoid dehydration since most of their water comes from metabolic water and moisture in food. They are active primarily at dusk and dawn.

Did You Know?

  • The name “sulcata” is a Latin word for “furrow,” which refers to the furrows, or deep lines, on their shells.
  • This tortoise can go weeks without food or water, and when it finds a water source it can drink up to 15 percent of its body weight!
  • African spurred tortoises find relief from the desert heat by digging burrows up to 10 feet deep.

Our Animals

Potter Park Zoo is home to two male African spurred tortoises, Norbert and Fluffy. Norbert, a male tortoise, was born in 1999. Fluffy was born in 2005.