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Differentiating Male and Female African Spurred Tortoises - Geochelone sulcata© - Ken Carlsen, John Levell and Darrell Senneke

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In the early 1990s the first "commodity" tortoise appeared on the herpetocultural scene. While certainly there had been much breeding success with various other species by many individuals, nothing could compare to the volume of baby African Spurred tortoises that entered the market place.  Geochelone sulcata produces large multiple clutches, while not particularly easy to breed they can be very productive if set up properly. 


We will not pass judgment here on the sagacity of selling a tortoise that is both rapid growing and reaches considerable size. Objections to the availability of hatchling G. sulcata can easily be met with reasoning's that the purchase of G. sulcata offer relief to wild stocks of Testudo horsfeldii  and Kinixys which are generally sold in the same price ranges.  Certainly both sides of this argument have valid points that individuals must weigh for themselves. The intent of this article is rather to offer a means of being able to learn more about your animal once it has been purchased.  We merely ask that you be aware that a 5 year old African Spurred tortoise may be 14 or more inches (36 cm) in length and will require suitable housing.  Please see our Geochelone sulcata Care Sheet for more information on properly caring for this species.


It is very difficult to sex G. sulcata with certainty at a size of less than 38 cm (15 inches).  Occasionally a young male African Spurred tortoise will display it's penis in a procedure we call flagging.  This removes all doubt as to the sex of that particular tortoise. Unfortunately not all male tortoises do this.  Fully adult specimens are also easily sexed. Typical tortoise sexual identification keys are present in adults. These include a concave plastron and lengthened tail in the male tortoise.   Sub-adults , on the other hand, can be somewhat more difficult. There is many the keeper who discovered his 30 cm (12 inch) female G. sulcata was really a male once it reached 38 cm (15 inches)    


The photos below will hopefully help keepers to properly sex their tortoises. These two tortoises are both young adult G. sulcata.


The anal scutes of the plastron are narrowly flared in females (Left) and widely flared in males (Right)
The plastron is flat in females (Left) and concave in males (Right)





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