Zoo hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Grounds close at 4 p.m.


(Geochelone sulcata)

The African spurred tortoise is Seneca Park Zoo’s largest tortoise and is the world’s largest mainland tortoise. The male tortoise is Bulldozer while the female is named Shelly. Both were born in 1997 and came to the Zoo in 1999. The two tortoises have huge appetites and eat pounds of vegetation and fruits each day.



International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status: Vulnerable. Its population has declined rapidly because of habitat loss due to the urbanization and desertification in Africa. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) declares the capture of wild African spurred tortoises illegal, but the trade continues to deplete the juvenile population, which threatens the whole species because it depletes the population before they can reach reproductive age.

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African spurred tortoises live in semi-arid dry regions, woodlands and desert-like grass and shrub lands. They can be found in the lands bordering the Sahara desert in Central Africa.


The African spurred tortoise is a herbivore. It eats dried grass, leaves and cacti. One of their favorite foods is the morning glory plant.


  • African spurred tortoises are very popular tortoises in the pet trade, yet they often fail to make good pets because of their large size and the fact that they can live to be more than 50 years old.
  • Coming from the southern Sahara, these tortoises are well adapted to hot, dry climates. In order to regulate their body temperature and humidity in the heat, African spurred tortoises will dig burrows underground in order to create a cooler and moister sheltered environment.
  • The female African spurred tortoise can take up to five hours to prepare her nest. The final nest site is about 2 feet in diameter and excavated to 3 to 6 inches deep. The average clutch size is 15 to 30 eggs.
  • African spurred tortoises can weigh more than 200 pounds.