African Spiny Tortoises – How to care for these giant African tortoises

African Spiny Tortoises – How to care for these giant African tortoises

African hedgehogs when young are cute, sociable and very tame. Perhaps these are reasons why any prospective turtle owner would seriously consider owning one. But this African tortoise may not be the best choice for a pet because it grows very large and becomes very powerful. In fact, spiny tortoises are the largest tortoises on the African continent and the third largest on the planet. They will certainly require a lot of space and a lot of food. More importantly, they will need a lot of time and money.

African tortoises are so named because of the spikes on their hind legs. Found in the hot and dry scrubland of north-central Africa, the adult female spiny-tailed tortoise can reach a shell length of 20 inches, while adult males can grow even larger, with shells up to 30 inches long. It has a broad and oval shell shape, an off-white plastron and a brown head. Its body color varies from yellowish to golden brown. This species also has very thick skin.

African tortoises need a high fiber diet. They like to eat mixed greens and vegetable salads every day; with an occasional sprinkle of calcium. It is significant that any turtle tends to become obese if overfed. Therefore, every African tortoise owner should make sure that food is served in moderation. These turtles may also feed on fruit, such as melons and apples, during the hot summer months; but only once every 10 days to 2 weeks. They should never be fed commercial dog or cat food.

African spiny tortoises require a warm and dry environment. In their outer enclosures, a substrate of three quarters of sand and one quarter of peat moss is mandatory. Add a layer of grass hay to one side to serve as shade. This shade protects the turtles from heat and provides a safe place to rest. On the other hand, to provide heat to the animals, use a bulb that emits heat in a lamp. Hang it 12 inches above the substrate. You should also provide a basking area heated between 90º to 95º F. Make sure you have room for a water dish as well. For safety, make sure the enclosure is free of predators.

As an owner, if you choose to keep your turtle indoors, you should place it in a large terrarium, not an aquarium. These two housing options are actually very different. These instructions apply only to small or medium-sized African tortoises. Plastic tubs, wooden cages and other enclosures are acceptable for all sizes. It is worth noting that African stilettos, like most of their family, require a large amount of UVB radiation for the synthesis of vitamin D3 (necessary for calcium metabolism) and like to be outdoors, exposed to grass, plants and soil. Therefore, it is recommended to build outdoor housing for them whenever possible.

Owning and caring for any kind of turtle takes a lot of time and money. You will need to make informed decisions based on the needs of your particular turtle breed. Don’t become one of those owners who felt excited as a newbie turtle keeper, but ended up selling — or worse, leaving — their pet stranded, trying to fend for himself in the wild.

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