Range: Along the southern edge of the Sahara, from Senegal, Mali to the Red Sea in Eritrea
Habitat: Hot arid environments ranging from desert fringes to dry savannah. Water not always available.
Conservation status: Vulnerable
• Largest of the African mainland tortoises; third largest tortoise in the world.
• They get their name from the spurs on their legs that have no known purpose.
• Carapace (top shell) is brown to yellow with deep cervical notch. Plastron is ivory-colored.
• Growth rings on the scutes form with age.
• Skin is golden or yellow-brown and is very thick.
• Males and females are similar; the males being slightly larger, have thicker tails and a more concave plastron, which makes mating easier.
• Strict herbivores.
• They like to burrow and are well adapted to the task. They will retreat to a burrow in very warm or cold weather. This also helps to prevent dehydration.
• Crepuscular: active at dawn and dusk. They will bask in the morning sun to warm up after the chill of the night.
• These tortoises are aggressive towards each other.
• After mating, the female’s body swells with eggs and she will then dig a nest. Clutch size can reach 15-30 eggs. They incubate for 8 months before hatching.
• Many populations are disappearing due to development, overgrazing and the pet trade. They breed well in captivity.