Sulcata tortoise is among the longest-living pets that can possibly outlive the owner. Tortoises, in general, are known for their long life span. If you are interested in getting a tortoise as a pet, you may wonder what type of tortoise has the most extended lifespan.
Sulcata tortoise is one of the tortoise types with a long life span. However, the Sulcata tortoise is not the longest-living tortoise ever. This title is earned by a Galapagos tortoise. But Sulcata tortoises are still in third place after Galapagos and giant tortoises.
Now, if you are interested in getting Sulcata tortoises and want more information about them, you can read more to learn how long a Sulcata tortoise lives and what you can do to ensure they live long healthy.
The Average Lifespan of A Sulcata Tortoise
Sulcata tortoise is the largest African tortoise. They can grow up to 100 kg and have a straight carapace length of around 86.0 cm in males. Sulcata tortoises grow quickly but need 10 to 15 years to reach maturity. The lifespan of Sulcata tortoises in the wild is unknown, but it is believed they can exceed 75 years. In captivity, their recorded lifespan is up to 54 years. This long lifespan is supported by the lack of predators, whether they are still hatchlings or growing up. They are also immune to predators once they reach 30 years old.
Factors that Affect Sulcata Tortoise Lifespan
There are several factors affecting the Sulcata tortoise lifespan as follows :
There is a secret as to why big tortoises have a longer lifespan. Studies show that big-sized tortoises, including Sulcata tortoises, have extra copies of genes called duplications that can protect them from the damaging effect of aging and other diseases, including cancer. However, the same study shows that these cells are also susceptible to certain types of stress that can damage the cells’ protein. When exposed to pressure, these cells can do something called apoptosis, a self-destructive activity. This activity may lead to severe diseases, including cancer, affecting their lifespan.
Diet plays a crucial role in the Sulcata tortoise’s lifespan. You must first understand their natural habitat to get the best diet plan. Originating from a semi-arid environment, they adapted and evolved by surviving mainly with grasses and weeds. This is why you need to provide them with a high-fiber, grass-based diet to help them stay healthy. The wrong diet plan can affect their health. Too much feeding may lead them to obesity and develop bumpy pyramids. Improper nutrition can also make them develop health issues that shorten their lifespan.
Every type of tortoise has a different environment. To keep them healthy, you must provide them with a proper environment similar to their natural habitat. For example, Sulcata tortoises originated from semi-arid areas with drier climates. If they live in an environment with too high humidity, they may develop some health issues, including respiratory diseases that can shorten their lifespan.
Besides the other factors mentioned above, some tortoises were also born with particular health conditions. They may be more sensitive or already have some allergies. You need to understand these different needs by consulting a veterinarian so you can take better care of them.
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To ensure Sulcata tortoises live a long and healthy life, you need to give them the best care in every area of their life below.
As mentioned above, the diet significantly impacts the Sulcata tortoise’s health and lifespan. You need to know that Sulcata tortoises need to be able to graze during the day. They are known as “eating machines” due to this behavior. To help them graze healthily and safely, you must provide them with proper food. The following is an appropriate diet list for Sulcata tortoises:
Grasses and hay should take the most significant portion of their diet plan. Giving them up to 90% grass-based food in their diet is advised. These types of food support their grazing behavior, similar to their natural habitat. Remember that the grasses and hays should be pesticide and herbicide free. Some food to offer includes timothy hay, meadow grass, and orchard grass. You also need to remember to avoid alfalfa hay because it is high in oxalates, which may cause stone formations leading to kidney failure.
Greens and vegetables
Vegetables should take about 10-15% of Sulcata tortoises’ food. The greens and vegetables include collards, dandelions, kale, broccoli, pumpkin, squash, and corn. Some gardens that should be avoided include parsley, spinach, and rhubarb because they are also high in oxalates.
Edible flowers can also be provided to add variations to the Sulcata tortoises diet. The flowers can be added to the grass mix. Some flowers that can be supplied include geraniums, hibiscus, and rose petals.
Fruits can also be provided in a strictly moderated portion as a treat. You need to avoid fruits that are high in sugar and water since Sulcata tortoises don’t find those types of fruits in their natural habitat. Some fruits, including strawberries, bananas with the skin, berries, peaches, pears, and apples, can be provided.
Supplements and high-calcium commercial pellets can also be added to the mix to help them get the required nutrients. However, this step is additional; you may not need to give them supplements if they already get sufficient nutrients from their daily food. Consult your veterinarian to get the proper amount of supplements for your tortoise.
You can feed your Sulcata tortoise once every two days or three times per week. However, they are known for their grazing behavior and they need something to graze daily. So, you can feed them once daily with half of the portion to support their grazing behavior without overeating.
The enclosure also plays a significant role in the Sulcata tortoise’s health. A nice and proper pen will ensure they live happily, preventing them from getting stressed, which can be damaging to their cell reproduction.
For first-year hatchlings, you can provide an 18×18 inches enclosure with a minimum height of 12 inches. Keep in mind that Sulcata tortoises grow fast and can outgrow their enclosure quickly. Therefore, you need to prepare a bigger pen for them. Adult Sulcata tortoises need a lot of space, and you will need at least 100 square feet for each tortoise.
If the climate and weather in your place allows you to keep them outdoors, it will be much better for them. However, an indoor enclosure is also fine if they have enough space to explore.
You need to build the enclosure out of sturdy walls because Sulcata tortoises can easily bring down standard wood fences. Concrete walls would be the best option but you can use wooden material as long as it is solid and sturdy. Avoid using see-through materials, as Sulcata tortoises tend to get away from the walls.
Sulcata tortoises are natural burrowers that can burrow deeply up to 10 feet deep. This is why it is important to provide them with the proper and deep substrate. The ideal substrate for Sulcata tortoises is a mix of topsoil and sand, creating a desert-like surface similar to their natural environment. Topsoil and sand mix is also diggable, providing a comfortable burrowing space. You can also add mulch, coconut coir, or sprinkles of dry hays to the substrate mix.
If you want to decorate the enclosure with plants, pick edible plants because Sulcata tortoises like to nibble on the plants they find. Desert plants such as aloe or succulent can add a nice decoration that is safe for the tortoise.
Sulcata tortoises hydrate themselves by soaking in the water. That is why adding a water bowl to the enclosure is also important. Ensure the water is fresh and clean so they can hydrate themselves properly. They usually defecate in the water, so you must regularly clean the water bowl.
Sulcata tortoises can live in a wide range of temperatures. However, the ideal temperature for them is between 85 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. They can also survive low temperatures, but if the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, they will need a warm hiding space and a basking light. They originated from a dryer environment, and their ideal humidity range should be between 40% and 60% in the daytime. At nighttime, they need higher humidity, up to 70%, and you can achieve that by misting the substrate with a small amount of water at night.
Basking light is important, especially if you keep Sulcata tortoises in an indoor enclosure. UVB light is recommended to give them sufficient UVB intake. Basking light also helps you to control the temperature of the room. It should be left on for about 10 to 12 hours per day.
Regular Veterinary Care
To ensure that your tortoise lives healthily and can live to their maximum lifespan, you also need to get them regular veterinary checkups. It can help you maintain your overall health and identify any diseases. It can also help you understand if they have special needs or if they develop some kind of allergies.
Sulcata tortoises are sociable creatures. Besides having social interaction with their peers, they can also form social relationships with their owners. They can recognize you through your smell and will be happy to interact. This is why you must keep them entertained, so they don’t feel lonely. Sulcata tortoises are also active and naturally curious. This is why they need to live in a large enclosure to explore and exercise. You can add some decorations in the enclosure such as stones and wooden caves, to provide a more explorable environment.
Among other tortoises, the Sulcata tortoises are one of the most fun to adopt. They are active, love to explore, and can form a relationship with their owner. This is how Sulcata tortoises earn their popularity as domestic pets. They are also known as one of the longest-living creatures allowing you to have a long-term relationship with them. However, with this fact comes great responsibility. You need to provide them with proper care so they can live their best life feeling happy and healthy so they can live to their maximum potential life span.
Adopting a pet is a huge responsibility. When you already form a relationship and bond with the Sulcata tortoise, you can’t just toss them away when you don’t feel like keeping them anymore. So you need to be sure that you can fully commit to this decision.
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Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)
Sulcata tortoises are social creatures. They love social interaction with their peers and their owner. However, tortoises are also solitary creatures, and they don’t mind living on their own. On the other hand, they can get bored as well. This is why it is crucial to keep them in a stimulating environment with areas to explore. You can also interact with them by hand-feeding them or petting them. Do not pick them up and hold them since all tortoises don’t feel safe and comfortable when you are held.
On average, Sulcata tortoises can grow their shell length up to 18 inches and weigh 70 to 100 pounds. However, some specimens can grow even bigger, up to three feet in length, and weigh 150 pounds. The largest Sulcata tortoise ever recorded even reached a weight of up to 240 pounds.
Yes, Sulcata tortoises can live in an indoor enclosure as long as they are provided with the proper environment. It is easier to keep young Sulcata tortoises in a house. However, as they grow more extensive, you will need larger space to provide them with a spacious area to explore. It should not be a problem if you can provide that inside the house then it should not be a problem.