Our Sulcata Tortoises (African Spurred Tortoises)
Keeping Sulcatas Is a New Experience for Us,
Both from the Standpoint of Care and Photo Opportunities

Welcome to Our Sulcata Tortoise Photo Blog
(Pseudoscientifically Speaking,
b
log imago Geochelone sulcata)

 

Home of the Surfin' Sulcata
(You'll Have to Scroll Way Down to See More of These Guys)

Go Astros Says the Surfing Sulcata, by Al Ruscelli

And the Surfin' Sulcata Says...GO ASTROS!!!!

Al Ruscelli Photography
League City, Texas
(281) 538-0579
E-mail:  al@ruscelli.com

Alternate E-mail:  vruscelli@comcast.net
 

Photographs Al Ruscelli, Photographer

Mia Isabelle Ruscelli versus the Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcatas a fig leaf, by Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcata on the Go, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Most of what follows are relatively close-up images of a couple of young sulcatas (African Spurred Tortoises, Geochelone sulcata) that we recently acquired.  This pair was hatched by the breeder in January 2005 and will currently fit in the palm of your hand.  But, with age they can grow to enormous size (some over 30-inches long, weighing 100 pounds or more).  And they can live a long, long time.  100 years or more?  Perhaps.  The photos on this page show the sulcatas from roughly age 6 months and 3 inches long to their current age and size (9 months, 3.5 inches).

Click on Any Image to See a Larger Image

Turtle and Tortoise Entry Page ] [ Our Sulcata Tortoises ] Our Leopard Tortoises ] Our Ornate Box Turtles ] Enclosures for Our Turtles/Tortoises ] Leeann Pippert ] Daxi, Calix and Rose ] ETHS Expo ] Some Macro Photography Examples ] Turtle Toons ] Turtle and Tortoise Art ]

Where Do We Keep Our Sulcatas?

This was our quick-and-dirty enclosure for the tortoises.  It's actually an old Metaframe tank made for small water turtles.  They'll be fine here for a little while, as long as we provide proper lighting, heat, and nourishment.  This enclosure evolved over a couple of day's time from plain glass tank to having a layer of sand, to a sand and topsoil mix (topped with Timothy hay) with a small cardboard "cave" for the tortoises to hide under.  Next up was a UV lamp to provide extra heat and UVB rays to help the sulcatas stay healthy in the indoor environment.  We keep a small dish of water in the tank in case they want a drink or a dip.  Their food is also sprinkled on occasion with a bit of extra powdered calcium for strong shell and bone growth.  The young sulcatas are also given soaking and a spraying in a shallow bath (about a half-inch of water) every couple of days or so. 

The Evolution of the Temporary Home

Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

 

Whoa, a Hi-Rise...(well, sort of)

Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

 

Considering a Drink

Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Temporary Baby Sulcata Enclosure, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

 

And Considering a Soak in the Spa

Sulcata soaking in the tub, by Al Ruscelli

 

Our Hurricane Rita Evacuation "Crate"

During the Hurricane Rita threat along the Texas Gulf Coast from Sept. 21-21, 2005 I took our two sulcatas on the road, along with my dog and all the belongings I could stuff into a Toyota Camry (not much, compared to a lifetime's accumulations).  This is what the sulcatas got by in for the few days that we were gone.  Small Sterilite container with  Timothy hay as a combination substrate and food source, a small lamp for warmth only, and a water bowl.  The blue lid (shown under the container, and not airtight when used on the container) was used to cover the container while riding in our vehicle. 

Hurricane Rita Tortoise Evacuation Crate, copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Hurricane Rita Tortoise Evacuation Crate, copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Hurricane Rita Tortoise Evacuation Crate, copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Next up will be a proper tortoise table.  But we're still working on that.

Want to see the proposed long-term home?

Please scroll toward the bottom of this  page to see the potential future home.
(But don't scroll too fast, or you might miss something important...or not.)

Going to Town on Some Nopales (Cactus Pads)

Shown below is half a nopale cactus pad and a bunch of cut-up, bite-sized pieces sprinkled with calcium powder on a rock.  At the small size of the sulcatas shown, a single nopale pad will last them for several weeks, if fed to them only on occasion.  The great thing about the nopales is that they are a succulent that will heal over when cut and keep for a long time.  We'll cut a sliver off the end of the pad, dice it up for the babies, and place the rest of the pad in the refrigerator.  They just don't go bad.  It's very likely that I could take the half pad shown in the image below, stick it in dirt and it would start growing. 

Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography

 

Tug-of-War for a Nopales Bit

Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography

 

Eating a Nopales Bit with Timothy Hay

     Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography

 

A Bite Sequence Eating Bits of Nopales Cactus Pads
(Look at the back-most sulcata as he eats one bit of the nopale, shown in this six-image sequence)

Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography

 

Close-ups of Nopales Bits Sprinkled with Calcium Powder

Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography

 

Some Nopales Bits Powdered in a Shaker Made for Applying Powdered Supplements to Foods
(This is the right way to coat bits of food with powder supplements. Check out the nice even coating of powder.  No waste, no mess.)

Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcatas eating diced nopales cactus pads, by Al Ruscelli Photography

 

All That Calcium Powder Make a Sulcata Thirsty!

Sulcata drinking, by Al Ruscelli Photography

Mmmmmm...Carrots

Sulcatas eating diced carrots, by Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcatas eating diced carrots, by Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcatas eating diced carrots, by Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcatas eating diced carrots, by Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcatas eating diced carrots, by Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcatas eating diced carrots, by Al Ruscelli Photography

A Fig Leaf!?!? Okey-dokey...

Sulcatas a fig leaf, by Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcatas a fig leaf, by Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcatas a fig leaf, by Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcatas a fig leaf, by Al Ruscelli Photography
The above image is a true macro photo, cropped from the
one above and the one above that, in succession.

Baby Sulcatas Outside

Sulcatas mowing the lawy, by Al Ruscelli Photography
"They call me the Lawnmower Man."

Sulcatas on a rock, by Al Ruscelli Photography
"Is this a rock we're on, or did we just find Mama?"

Some General Photos of "The Twins"
(Not "twins" from the same egg, just from the same mama)

At this point we don't know if they are male, female, or one of each.
So, in the interim, our daughter is calling them Lilo and Stitch.

Baby Sulcatas, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Baby Sulcatas, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Baby Sulcatas, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

They Sometimes Dine Next to a Light Bulb.

My guess is that they are either trying to give us a reference object for their relative size or
thinking up 'how-many-tortoise-owners-does-it-take-to-screw-in-a-light-bulb' jokes.

Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Why Are Cuttlebones Good for Sulcata Tortoises?

We understand that cuttlebones (from cuttlefish, the squid-like sea creatures) can be used as a source of extra calcium for our tortoises.  This much is true.  How much else of what follows in this "mini-section" is true?  You make the call...

This cuttlebone ought to keep them out of trouble
An ordinary cuttlebone can offer a very exciting supplement to a sulcata's diet.

Just one more coat of wax and I'm outta here...
Our sulcatas, on the other hand, seem to have other ideas about what constitutes "excitement."

So, watch out for . . .

Surfin' Sulcatas!!!

by Al Ruscelli
Hangin' Ten
(or is it "Hangin' Eight"?)

by Al Ruscelli
The Big Sulcata

by Al Ruscelli
Surfin' Sulcata in the Tube

by Al Ruscelli
"Whoa! I'm up!"

by Al Ruscelli
Just Another Surfing Sulcata

by Al Ruscelli
"Surf's up!  But I'm not..."

by Al Ruscelli
Wipe out!
(or "AHHHHHH....!!!!")

Note:  No sulcata tortoises were harmed or killed during the creation of these low-budget images.

We Take Care of Our Sulcata's Meal-Time Needs -- Do You?

Dinnerware for the Hard-to-Please  Sulcata -- Gotta Be Swarovski*

Beverly Hills Sulcata by Al Ruscelli Photography
"Wish someone would show me how to use these dang things."

Note:  No sulcata tortoises were harmed or killed during the creation of this low-budget image.
(And no dinnerware was broken, in case you're bitin' your nails about that part.)

*This is just an inside joke for the members of the various tortoise and turtle groups at yahoo.com,
 who feed their turtles and tortoises even better and with more flair than we do.

Some Real Macro Shots of the Sulcatas
(Taken with a Canon 1D Mark II Digital Body and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens)

Note that these images are of small sulcatas.  Their heads measure approximately 1/2 inch across and their eyes are only about 1/8 inch in diameter.

Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli

The two images directly below were cropped from the image above.

Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli     Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli

Feet and Tail Macro Images

Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli     Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli

Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli     Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli

Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli     Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli

Eye and Head Macro Images

Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli     Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli     Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli

Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli     Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli

Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli     Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli     Sulcata macro image by Al Ruscelli

For Some Other Macro Images of the Non-Tortoise Variety, Click Here

Shots During a Real Lettuce Feeding Frenzy

Plain lettuce is not what you want to feed sulcatas on a regular basis, but a it provides a nice snack once in a while.
We currently feed them in a "clean" area with no dirt or sand, separate from their main enclosure.

Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Baby Sulcatas Eating, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     "Can I get a burger and fries to go with this salad?" Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Ate Too Much?!?  Overdosed on Lettuce?!?

No, just sunning under the new UV lamp.

Baby Sulcata Sunning Itself, Geochelone Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Various Shots

"Hey, look at my face!"  "Hey, look at my side!"  "Hey, look at the top of my head!"
Etc., etc., etc.

Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcata, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

More Cool Close-ups

It's pretty neat to take a close look at the heads, legs, shells, etc., as seen through another macro lens.
These guys are pretty tough looking when it comes right down to it.

Sulcata Close-up Photo, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcata Close-up Photo, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcata Close-up Photo, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcata Close-up Photo, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcata Close-up Photo, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Question:  "Is this a male or female?"
Answer:  "Yes."

Sulcata Close-up Photo, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Cool Close-up Shots of the Sulcata Tortoise Shells

Sulcata Shell, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcata Shell, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcata Shell, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcata Shell, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcata Shell, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Sulcata Shell, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcata Shell, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Closer and Closer -- Posing for a Head Shot

Sulcata Head Close-up, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcata Head Close-up, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

Even Juliet the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Has an Interest. 

We realize that there can be tragic consequences if a dog happens to find and "play" with a tortoise for a while.  A dog chewing on a tortoise can lead to a crippled or dead tortoise, and that's something we don't want.  But truthfully, we'd rather have our dog learn about these tortoises early rather than discover them later.  We don't want any mishaps involving our dog or other animal getting hold of one of our tortoises, but at the same time, we want our dog to be aware of them and around them under controlled conditions.  We feel that this will help to prevent rather than cause any tragic encounters.

Artwork, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Baby Sulcata Tortoise, by Al Ruscelli

The Eventual Home
(Sulcata Plaza?)

This is an old dog house on our property that could potentially house our sulcatas during much of the year.  It's currently fenced in by our regular yard fence, but we'd be putting a smaller, reinforced wood and wire fence that would actually serve as their pen and enclosure.  The structure needs a bit of work, but it's basically sound, complete with a concrete foundation. 

    

Sulcata Plaza, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography     Sulcata Plaza, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography

For some perspective on size, the photos below shows our 4-year-old daughter sitting outside the house, 12-week-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel leaping out of the house, and a 7-month-old sulcata wandering around in the house -- each in the vicinity of the entrance.  Can you even spot the sulcata?

     Sulcata Plaza, Copyright Al Ruscelli Photography    

More Than You Need to Know:  Our proposed sulcata enclosure is currently surrounded by St. Augustine grass.  St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), which grows well in the Houston area, and is used to sod most lawns here.  St. Augustine is really a creeping perennial that is established via sod "plugs" or sheets.  St. Augustine grass is not established from seeds (at least, not for general use in the average home yard).  Rather, sand and topsoil are generally laid down (sometimes just sand right on top of our "gumbo" soil that we have on the Texas Gulf coast), and pallets of St. Augustine squares (or rectangles) are brought in, usually in 1-ft by 2-ft segments.  The St. Augustine squares are generally laid on top of the soil and watered in until the root system can tie in to the soil below.  St. Augustine is sometimes referred to as buffalo grass.  Why all this about St. Augustine grass?  Because of its abundance here, St. Augustine will likely be at least part of the sulcata diet in our yard. 

The Proposed Enclosure from the Young Sulcata's Perspective.

    

    

A Tale of Caution for All

Creeping through the waist-high underbrush to get a glimpse of the dangerous reptile in its native habitat . . .

The National Geographic photographer is nearly caught unaware as the angered, predacious beast lunges forward, jaws agape . . .

But the savage herbivore is sorely disappointed, coming away with only pieces of the fleet photographer's grass skirt camouflage. 

The photographer, unperturbed by the close call, shall return.  Someday.  After changing into some dry underwear. 

A Haunting and Moving Quote on the Dying of the Galapagos Tortoise

I saw this quote by Kenneth Brower on the Galapagos tortoise nearing the end of its life and was really taken by it. 

"One day he gets too weak to move, and stops.  He stays in that spot for months, sometimes, his long-practiced power of enduring, his racial skill at it, serving him long after his power to move and get food has failed.  Watching leaves fall, probably, and the season change, the tortoise living only in his head and eyes, a spark somewhere still inside, above the plastron and below the dome."   Kenneth Brower

Whew...talk about a moving quote.  Something that evokes a deep image. 

Links

Want to see shots from the 15th Annual ETHS Conference, Breeder Expo and Educational Exhibit, September 11, 2005?
Click Here

Sulcata Information on Other Websites and Other Useful Tortoise/Reptile Links

African Sulcata Tortoise at PetEducation.com

African Spurred Tortoise at Chelonia.org

Box Turtle Care and Conservation Webpage

Central Florida Sulcata Rescue

Chelonia The Art of the Possible

East Texas Herpetological Society

HoustonTurtlers - Houston Area Turtle Lovers at Yahoo.com

Kingsnake.com - Herp Forum

Melissa Kaplan's Herp and Green Iguana Information Collection

Slowcoach Tortoise Site

Sulcata at Yahoo.com

Sulcata Care Sheet at RepticZone.com

Sulcata Care Sheet - African Spurred Tortoise

Sulcata Station

The Tortoise House

The Turtle Ranch

Tortoise Trust Web

Turtle Homes Rescue

Turtle Homes - Sulcata Test

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Al Ruscelli Photography
League City, TX
(281) 538-0579
al@ruscelli.com

or
vruscelli@comcast.net

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