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Hermes the Tortoise – Sulcata – African Spurred Tortoise


Hello!  It’s my turn to write the blog this week so I’ll start by introducing myself.

My name is Hermes, and I am a Sulcata Tortoise (aka, Spiny African Tortoise).   I was traded in to a pet store, which gave me to My Zoo Animal Hospital after I didn’t find a new home quickly.

I eat A LOT of vegetables – 3 bags of hearts of romaine per week – and some owners find that my eating habits are too expensive!   I also love getting small tastes of other fresh vegetables and fruits.

At My Zoo Animal Hospital, one of my favorite spots to be is under Dr. Debbie’s desk where it’s quiet and safe.   I also love soaking in the warm sun outside in My Zoo’s fenced in area.

Reptiles, like me, need UV light (provided naturally in sunlight) to make vitamin D3.  Vitamin D3 is important for calcium balance in the body.  Without calcium, I would be unable to build a strong, healthy shell and bones.  While at My Zoo Animal Hospital, I’ve learned many interesting facts about myself and my kind, and I’d love to share them with you:


  • Sulcatas are vegetarians.  In the wild we eat a mixture of grasses, weeds, flowers, and other vegetation.
  • Sulcata tortoises originated from the Sub-Saharan region of Africa.  That means we are well-suited for arid environments.
  • Sulcatas are the 3rd largest tortoises in the world.  I can grow to over 2 feet long and 200 pounds.  Since I will get that big, I’m not an appropriate long term pet for many people.  If kept in a house, we’ve been known to bulldoze right through sheet rock and doors to get to where we want to go!
  • Sulcatas are very good at digging.  That means we can escape enclosures and risk getting lost, sick, or even dying.   In the wild, we dig very long tunnels to try to escape the heat and avoid dehydration.
  • The parts of my shell have different names.  The top shell is called the carapace and is made of units called scutes.  My carapace is hard, but some turtles have soft carapaces (like the leatherback turtle, a sea turtle).  The part of my shell that is on my belly is called the plastron.  These two components are connected by a bridge.  Did you know that my backbone, breastbone, and ribs are all attached to the inside of my shell?  So that means turtles and tortoises can never remove their shells!  My shell is just as much a part of me as your skin is a part of you.
  • What’s the difference between turtles and tortoises?  Well turtles tend to have a more flat carapace and tend to spend almost all their time in the water.  Tortoises, like me, have more of a domed carapace and prefer the land.   We both belong to the scientific order Chelonia so turtles and tortoises are called chelonians.

Well, if you have any questions about me…or have a chelonian of your own.  Please give us a call, and we’ll be happy to talk to you!

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