African Spurred Tortoise Diet

The African spurred tortoise requires full-spectrum light and the correct foods..
The African spurred tortoise requires full-spectrum light and the correct foods.. (Image: tortoise image by Michael Korecki from

The African spurred tortoise is a large species of tortoise from mainland Africa, and are sometimes called sulcata tortoises. African spurred tortoises get their name from the large, spur-like protrusions on their thighs, which help them dig burrows or nests for laying eggs.

Diet in the Wild

According to the Honolulu Zoo, the African spurred tortoise is a strict vegetarian, eating mainly vegetables, fruits and greenery, such as the leaves of the morning glory plant. The zoo also states that they are especially fond of succulents, which include cacti, prickly pear and yucca.

Diet In Captivity

In captivity, African spurred tortoises eat a mixture of hay, grasses, leafy greens (such as clover, dandelion, kale, various weeds) as well as succulents. You can offer a small amount of vegetables and fruit, but grasses, greens, succulents and edible flowers should make up most of the tortoise's diet.

Provide the tortoise with a cuttlefish bone, which it can chew on if it requires additional calcium. You can also sprinkle a calcium supplement on the food. If the tortoise is not kept outdoors and is not exposed to natural sunlight for long periods of time, it should also be given a vitamin D3 supplement.

Nutritional Requirements

According to the Oakland Zoo, the African spurred tortoise requires a diet that is rich in calcium and fiber, as well as low in protein. In the wild, they generally obtain all of the calcium and fiber they require from the leafy greens they eat. African spurred tortoises cannot adequately digest protein of any kind, and eating animal protein or vegetables that are high in protein (such as soy) can lead to health problems.

Outside Grass

Many keepers of African spurred tortoises let them roam freely in a fenced enclosure outdoors. In these enclosures the tortoise has access to grass, which is safe to eat as long as it has not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. This grass can provide the bulk of the tortoise's diet, but is not nutritionally sufficient to make up the total diet. The tortoise should still have access to leafy greens and other plants.

Quantity Of Food

The African spurred tortoise is the largest land tortoise in the world, reaching weights of over 200 pounds as an adult. Despite the fact that they grow to be very large, they have slow metabolisms and are often very sedentary or slow moving. and do not require huge quantities of food. African spurred tortoises tend to graze all day, but can be fed vegetables, greens and other supplementary foods every other day.

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