By the Santa Barbara Zoo
Happy hatch day, sulcata tortoises!
The Zoo has three African spurred (or sulcata) tortoises who are all males and all hatched in September 1988, which means they are turning 34 years old. African spurred tortoises can live to be 80 to 100 years old, so these fellows are in their prime!
These tortoises are commonly known as African spurred tortoises because of the large overlapping scales on their front legs. Their nickname “sulcata” is a Latin word for furrow (groove). Sulcata tortoises have grooves on their backs between the scutes, or bony plates, on their shells.
The Zoo’s sulcatas live near the giraffe deck and are visible from the pathway between giraffes and lions. In the wild, African spurred tortoises are found in the dry savannahs of southern edge of the Sahara, from Senegal and Mauritania east through Mali, Niger, Chad, the Sudan, Ethiopia, and along the Red Sea in Eritrea. They are considered a vulnerable species due to overgrazing and urbanization of their natural habitat.
In celebration of the boys’ hatch days, please enjoy this video (sound on!) of a tortoise watermelon eating party!