Sulcata Tortoise Lifespan: How Long Do They Live?

Sulcata Tortoise Lifespan

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The Sulcata tortoise is the 3rd largest tortoise on the earth and makes a great beginner pet. The species is intelligent and enjoys human interaction. However, before adopting or getting it as a pet, you must consider the fundamental questions, such as Sulcata tortoise lifespan, habitat environment, diet plan, etc. So, how long do Sulcata tortoises live?

Depending on the captive or wild environment, a Sulcata tortoise has a lifespan of around 50 to 150 years. The species is hardy, easy-to-handle, and blessed with a long life.

How do Sulcata tortoises live long? Does the captive environment affect this tortoise’s life expectancy? What is the growth rate of the Sulcata tortoise with its age? The following article includes all the answers you are looking for.

How Long Does A Sulcata Tortoise Live?

The longevity of an African Sulcata tortoise ranges between 50 to 150 years. Various factors, including the surroundings, decide how long the creature will live.

The Sulcata is another name of the African Spurred tortoise. People welcome this species as a pet due to its handleability, availability, hardiness, and long lifespan. The original habitat of the Sulcata tortoise ranges along the edge of the Sahara Desert. Hence, these tortoises manage to live well and have a long life in both harsh and mild environments.

How Long Does A Sulcata Tortoise Live In Captivity?

In captivity, the average lifespan of a Sulcata tortoise is around 54.3 years. With proper care, diet and environment, these pets can make it to 150 years.

The captive environment always works in the favor of the tortoises. A balanced diet ensures healthy growth and regular medical checkup backs up any emergency condition. As a result, Sulcata tortoises get to live an extended life in captivity.

According to the last report, the oldest captive Sulcata tortoise is around 54 years old. It is under the observation and care of the Giza Zoological Gardens, Egypt. Compared to the long lifespan, 54 years old sounds young. Right?

If you are planning to get a Sulcata tortoise, consider the longevity. The species makes a great pet, without any doubt. Unlike cats or dogs, this tortoise may live a century. Make sure you are mentally and financially ready for this commitment.

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How Long Does A Sulcata Tortoise Live In The Wild?

A Sulcata tortoise lives more than 50 years in the wild. Like the captive ones, the wild African Sulcata tortoises are also blessed with a life of up to 150 years.

In the wild, the Sulcata tortoises live in an arid region. They are on their own in food hunting or fighting off any predators. Moreover, there is no opportunity for emergency medical care, so these tortoises heal naturally. Because of these factors, wild Sulcata tortoises may live a shorter life compared to the captive ones.

Why Do Sulcata Tortoises Live So Long

Why Do Sulcata Tortoises Live So Long?

You know turtles are blessed with a long life. Even some turtle species manage to live up to 400 years. Being a close relative of the turtles, tortoises also have a long lifespan. Take the Sulcata tortoise for an example. It is one of the most long lived tortoises on the planet.

A Sulcata tortoise lives up to 150 years. Have you ever questioned how these tortoises have such a long lifespan? The simple answer will be the engraved DNA of these creatures. The species is biologically programmed to last over a century.

Experts indicate 5 factors that are the secret of a Sulcata tortoise’s longevity. Such as,

  1. Location
  2. Size
  3. Delayed sexual maturity
  4. Slow metabolism
  5. Solitary behavior

Remember, this is a well-accepted theory. Scientists and researchers are still working on getting hold of solid proof of this theory.

1. Location

Location or natural habitat plays a significant role in deciding a Sulcata tortoise’s lifespan. Imagine a place where the tortoises always live under the fear of attack. Situations like these imply a negative effect on the creature’s longevity. As Sulcata tortoises live on deserts, they have few enemies.

Sulcata tortoises are evolved to live in arid environments. Hence, surviving in the harsh surroundings is in these tortoises’ blood. Again, a moist or mild environment also favors this species. The ability to get adapted to any location is one of the reasons why the Sulcata tortoises live so long.

2. Size

While surviving in the wild, bigger size always is an advantage. The researchers claim that tortoises that are big in size may have a longer life. Well, it is not a hard-fast rule but applies well in the case of turtles and tortoises.

A Sulcata tortoise gets 24 to 30 inches big and weighs up to 50 kgs. The bulky size benefits the creatures in fighting off any predators and living a long life.

3. Delayed Sexual Maturity

Sulcata tortoises become sexually mature at 15 to 20 years. The prolonged reproduction system is one of the factors that make the species live for 150 years.

Researchers claim that in the wild, the populated species have more enemies. Otherwise, nature will lose its balance.

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Sulcata tortoises stay too busy living their life and adapting to the environment for the first 20 years of their life. Then when the creatures become sexually active, they do slow reproduction. It is because they have a long life to continue the family lineage.

Many species hurry to produce babies to build a defense against the predators. In the case of Sulcata tortoises, they have hard shells for protection. Experts claim that animals with a fast reproduction system live shorter lives.

4. Slow Metabolism

The slow motion lifestyle of tortoises is another reason what keeps them alive so long. A physiologist, Max Rubner, explained the inverse relation of lifespan and slow metabolism. It has been said that animals with fast metabolism die sooner.

However, Sulcata tortoises have a slow metabolism rate. It means the creatures burn energy at a slow pace. Ultra-slow digestion and less energy consumption cause less harm to the body cells. Hence the Sulcata tortoises live such a long life.

5. Solitary Behavior

Like all other species, the Sulcata tortoises are not social creatures. They prefer living alone and staying away from social complexities. But yes, when needed, these tortoises look for mates or companions.

Researchers believe the solitary life of the Sulcata tortoises leads to a stress-free and more active life. As a result, this species lives a long life.

What Affects A Sulcata Tortoise Lifespan?

A Sulcata tortoise growing up in the wild may live a shorter life than the captive one. The lower limit of the life expectancy of the wild Sulcata is 50 years. On the other hand, a captive Sulcata lives a minimum of 70 years.

Researchers suggest that in the wild, the Sulcata tortoises do not get the proper care. Hence, their life expectancy may vary from the captive African Sulcata tortoises. Basically, 3 factors decide the longevity of a Sulcata tortoise. Such as,

  • Environment
  • Diet
  • Health care


Sulcata tortoises are born and grown up in deserts or arid areas. Usually, the environment of those regions is harsh and rough. But this species is well adapted to that kind of weather.

Even in a captive environment, the Sulcata tortoises require a desert type land soil with a grassy area. Their habitat includes dirt and other substrates.

If the indoor or outdoor habitat of the Sulcata tortoise does not fulfill the requirements, the pet will feel uncomfortable. It can lead to mental stress and other diseases, which affect the pet’s lifespan.


Diet is a crucial part of any creature’s life. Being a bulky species, the Sulcata tortoises need proper meals. Their diet plan includes 100% of hay and grasses, 60% of vegetables, and 20% of fruits. An additional calcium supplement will enrich the food nutrition.

In the wild, Sulcata tortoises do not get to eat regularly. On the contrary, the captive pets get an exact amount of meal without any trouble.

As a result, the immunity and strength of a pet Sulcata tortoise are much more developed than the wild one. A healthy tortoise will definitely live a longer life.

Health Care

Like most other animals, Sulcata tortoises also suffer from various diseases. Severe illness will decrease the lifespan of the creature. Here are some physical conditions of Sulcata tortoises:

  • Pyramiding for a low humidity environment and high protein diet
  • Bacterial or fungal infection, patches on the shell or skin due to the damp and unhealthy substrate
  • Dehydrated skin and weight loss
  • Metabolic bone diseases in lack of Vitamin D and calcium
  • Bladder stone
  • Paralysis
  • Organ failure
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Usually, pet Sulcata tortoises get more medical attention than wild ones. As a result, the captive tortoises may live a longer life.

How To Help Your Sulcata Tortoise Live A Longer Life

How To Help Your Sulcata Tortoise Live A Longer Life?

Sulcata tortoises have a long life expectancy. But without proper care, they will suffer from diseases and may experience an early death. As a responsible tortoise keeper, you must not let this happen. A little modification in the tortoise habitat and its diet might help the Sulcata live up to 150 years.

Here is how your Sulcata tortoise will live a longer life:

  1. Sulcata tortoises prefer dry and warm enclosures. As this species gets bulky with time, an outdoor habitat is more suitable.
  2. To raise the habitat temperature, you should set up high quality bulbs. The basking, daytime, and nighttime temperatures are sequentially 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 80 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The improper temperature might lead to bacterial growth and discomfort for the Sulcata tortoise.
  3. Maintaining the perfect humidity is important. Otherwise, the shell and skin of the tortoise will become flaky or too moist. It will cause skin or shell conditions.
  4. Sulcata tortoises can not swim. Still, they need a shallow water source for drinking and cooling off the body heat.
  5. Provide the Sulcata with a balanced meal. Do not forget to add calcium and vitamin supplements to the diet. For the 1st year, feed the tortoise daily. After that, 3 times a week feeding schedule will work fine. Both the overfeeding or underfeeding conditions can make the tortoise sick.
  6. Handling the Sulcata tortoise too often may stress the creature out. Do not touch or disturb your pet. Anxiety or stress can affect its lifespan.
  7. Sulcata tortoises can live in dirt and substrate. It does not mean the enclosure needs no cleaning. Filthy and unhealthy habitat is enough for making your pet tortoise physically and mentally ill.

How Big Is A 1 Year Old Sulcata Tortoise?

With proper diet and care, a hatchling Sulcata tortoise will get 6 to 8 inches big at 1 year old. It will weigh about 800 to 1000 grams.

A Sulcata tortoise reaches 24 to 30 inches in length at the age between 15 to 20 years. Following the first 5 years of birth, the hatchling experiences fast growth. At the age of 10 to 15, the tortoise will reach the average length.

Here is a chart indicating the growth rate of Sulcata tortoise:

Age Of The Sulcata TortoiseSize Of The Carapace (Inches)
Up to 3 months2.5 to 3 inches
Up to 10 months3 to 3.5 inches
Up to 3 years3.5 to 10 inches
Up to 6 years10 to 14 inches
Up to 9 years14 to 17.6
Up to 15 years17.6 to 24 inches
Up to 20 years24 to 30 inches

Remember, growth rate and length are not fixed for a Sulcata tortoise. Genetics, available care, and the surrounding of the pet will decide how long it will grow.     


Sulcata tortoises live a life of 50 to 150 years. Longevity depends on various factors, and with proper arrangement, a pet Sulcata can live to its fullest.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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