**The following information is meant to give the novice keeper a BASIC place to start with the species. More information (web links, infographics, recommended books, etc.) can be found on the RESOURCES section of the website. **
Sulcatas evolved to tolerate hot, dry climates. In the 1980s they were imported for the pet trade and now are over-bred and surpassing Red-Eared Sliders in number of rescues. With every Sulcata that NWT rescues comes the words “I had no ideal how destructive or big they got.” Sulcatas reach 100+ pounds and can turn any yard into a field of craters.
Inform yourself before you purchase, or better yet, adopt a Sulcata to ensure you can provide for its needs.
Truth: Sulcatas dig holes, Big holes. They never stop digging these holes
In their natural environment Sulcatas dig huge burrows that are long and deep. Like gophers or rabbits, Sulcatas are always working on their burrows, they are never done.
Truth: Sulcatas are destructive
Sulcatas are nomadic by nature and do not tolerate lack of space. If a Sulcata wants to get out of a pen, it will. Tenacious and powerful are understatements. Underground barriers, secure pens and a large amount of space are required.
Truth: Sulcatas are territorial and will defend it
Sulcatas, both male and female, can be territorial. Defending their area includes ramming (rising up on the front legs and thrusting the body resulting in the shell ramming the obstacle) and shuffling (‘pushing’ something out of the way by tucking the head inside the shell and pushing with legs and shell). Sulcatas are strong and powerful at all ages. Obstacles such as flower pots, lawn mowers, reflections in glass are all potential “territorial invaders.” Sulcatas are a bold, brave species; dogs and other animals can be targets.
Truth: The majority of owners feed Sulcatas incorrectly
70% grasses and hay (no alfalfa) are the correct Sulcata diet. Yard greens: grasses, grape, clover, mulberry and fig leaves, dandelion, hibiscus leaves and flowers, opuntia cacti, thistles, chickweed, etc. See the education section for more information on a correct Sulcata diet.
Truth: Their poop is in a class by itself
Sulcata poop is extra smelly and they have a habit of ‘scraping’ while relieving themselves. Poop streaks are common with Sulcatas. They also poop very large amounts!
An excellent article about Sulcata challenges:
A Reptile Dysfunction: How Sulcata Tortoises Became America’s Most Adorable Mistake
70% grasses and hay (no alfalfa) is the correct Sulcata diet. Yard greens: grasses, grape, clover, mulberry and fig leaves, dandelion, hibiscus leaves and flowers, opuntia cacti, thistles, chickweed, etc. See the education section for more information on a correct Sulcata diet.