Aspyn (Shelldon)

New Member
Dec 2, 2020
Location (City and/or State)
Hello all, my name is Aspyn, I am 18, and I live in Utah. I want to introduce Shelldon, and get some help and advice.

Recently, my family has taken over care of Shelldon, a (turning) 4 year old African Sulcata.

His prior owners have moved with him from California and have had him here in Utah for most his life.
His owners had a lot on their plate, as well as 3 children under 5 years old. The kids would often hide him, and the mother was recently diagnosed and treated for cancer... and the parents simply couldn’t take care of him any longer. My mother, who has always loved tortoises and turtles (and has quite the obsession with them) told her we could take him.

Before getting him, we read into everything we could about care, food, shelter etc. We have a very large backyard we have been renovating as well as an indoor room for him.

After getting him, I was immediately concerned.
He will be turning 4 this December according to his owners and original breeder, and he only measures 4” by 4” around.
There are no other concerns, no other issues, other than his size.

His prior owners fed him only repti-pellets and iceberg lettuce, which I immediately freaked out about. They didn’t let him out often, despite Utah’s summer temps being over 80° for months. They kept him in a tortoise house, which is certainly big enough, but we have come to the conclusion he was certainly deprived and malnourished.

We have already began the process of overturning this.. We soak him often, feed him what he needs in a diet for a tortoise his size, and actively work to keep his enclosure humid and warm. We measure him to see any change.
Because of the pandemic, the exotic animal hospitals around us are not accepting new clients at the time unless there is something directly concerning.

I want to ask you all as a community, what can we do under these circumstances? What are we doing wrong/right? What other advice or questions do you have?
Help us get our Shelldon to where he needs to be! Thank you!

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The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 9, 2010
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Here is the correct care info. Most of what you find will be old, outdated and wrong. Read this and then feel free to ask questions:

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 23, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Hi and welcome!

Poor little guy is badly stunted. I don't know if he'll be able to grow out of it, but all you can do is try your best. And if he's always stunted, then you'll just enjoy him for who his is. He's awfully cute!

Read the care sheet Tom linked for you with an open mind, tossing out all the preconceived ideas you had about tortoise care. Then read t again. With a good diet, plenty of sunshine in the summer and lots of exercise hopefully Shelldon will grow up to make you proud!
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Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Oct 26, 2011
Location (City and/or State)
Kent, South East England
There’s some pyramidding there, but it will become less obvious as he grows. And he has a lot of growing to do.

There’s a thread by @Tom pinned to the top of the sulcata forum about optimal rearing of this species. Please use that for the advice you need. I am sure you have discovered the internet is full of contradictory and outdated advice already.