When I read information about sulcata tortoise I think one of the most overlooked behaviors is their need to walk. One may read that the sulcata in its natural environment can walk five to eleven miles (depending on the source material) and has a territory of about five miles (again depending on the source material). In its natural environment, they walk great distances to get to fresh grazing areas and to their water sources.
Rarely does this behavior translate into recommended husbandry. I noticed that very few sources emphasized the need for the sulcata to have ample space to walk around. Authors note that sulcata pace, they note that they will try to get through fences but few get the reason why.
Off hand I cannot think of another animal that needs to walk as much as sulcata tortoises do. Many animals need space and exercise like horses and dogs. But the sulcata as a built in instinct to walk.
How do I know this? Besides evidence of natural behavior, I observe Frankie's all obsession to walk. When I take him out to walk, Frankie is on a mission. He doesn't seem to need to "get somewhere" but rather a need to just walk. He easily walks one mile with me and if I had the patience (it takes a good hour and fifteen minutes to walk a mile) he would go a full second mile and maybe more. During his walks, he is not distracted by much. Yes, Frankie will stop for a dandelion, but he really loves dandelions. He stop for hardly anything else, including children standing in the way.
I think that many many sulcata are spiritually broken in captivity because they are not allow to walk and are kept in small spaces. The worse cases are those sulcata kept permanently in basements or tubs. Their spirit is broken, their muscle atrophy. I have also seen some rescued sulcata stare amazingly at the great outdoors for the first time in their life.
Sulcata are not the kind of tortoises that should be kept in basements. They should not be kept in small yards. They should have the space to walk.
If you love your sulcata, take him on a walk. You will be amazed.