(Photo of FRANKIE! borrowed from Frankie’s Tortoise Tails )

VikkiKim asked Tort-time:

I’m thinking about getting a spur thigh tortoise as a pet when I’m older. Do they really need to burrow? What type of cage type enclosing would i need?

Sorry for the delay!

True burrowing is not necessary. You can build a shed/ housing area for your tortoise. They will definitely dig but the ability to burrow fully in the ground isn’t necessary for a healthy tortoise in captivity. They need A LOT of space and, of course, the right lighting, temperatures, and diet.  Enclosures will need to be adapted and changed as your tortoise grows. 

The thing to remember with African Spur Tortoises (aka sulcata’s) is that they get huge (I’m guessing you know this if you’re interested in getting one but I gotta make sure its said). They are as small as a quarter when they hatch but very quickly become 75+ pounds of trouble. 

They aren’t just big, THEY ARE HEAVY! 

All enclosures have to be built to sustain the force of a climbing, curious, heavy tortoise. I’ve posted pictures of Zoya getting into trouble, scaling walls, climbing everything she can, and eating all the plants in her outdoor enclosure. These guys get up to the same shenanigans but they weigh 75+ pounds.  They are known for knocking things down, escaping all kinds of crazy ways, and eating everything in sight. You will need to reinforce an outdoor enclosure visibly and at a certain depth, these guys can dig! Also know that all plants and soil in an outdoor enclosure have to be suitable for eating (cause they’ll surely try it), organic/ pesticide free. 

3 out of 4 African Spur Thigh’s (Sulcata Tortoises) that get adopted end up being abandoned by their owners because they get unexpectedly large and cause a lot of destruction in their wake. Shelters/Rescues Etc are over run with these guys because people don’t quite think through the life time adoption they are taking part in when getting one. Its sad because they are amazing creatures. 

Definitely recommend this site for info: http://africantortoise.com (there are lots of sites out there just make sure the source of the info is reliable)

A MUST read for any potential owner (and all tortoise lovers out there.. seriously) is Frankie’s Tortoise Tails! Not only will you get an idea of what its like having one of these guys in your home, you’ll also get to read some fantastic stories about Frankie (cool pics too!)

Good Luck! 

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